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web posted January 26, 20089

Re: Not profitable radio by J.J. Jackson (January 19, 2009)

J.J. Jackson's essay on public radio is seriously misleading about the size of public radio's audience. Arbitron, the same company that provides radio ratings for commercial broadcasters, reports that more than 11% of the U.S. population, age 12 and older, listen to public radio at least once per week. That's more than 28 million people each week. You can find a detailed report here.

The 3 stations in Pittsburgh have significant audiences as well. In Spring 2008:

WDUQ reached nearly 150,000 listeners per week
WQED had just of 96,000 weekly listeners
WYEP had just over 67,000 weekly listeners

This information is available at rrconline.org in the Arbitron Data section of the site. The RRC is public radio's conduit for Arbitron information. It's most recent report on the national audience for public radio is here.

Until very recently, Arbitron chose to keep separate commercial radio and public radio audience numbers. To many, it apeared that public radio had no audience. That is changing. In the future, public radio stations will show up in the rankings and some of the very programs cited by Mr. Jackson as "successes" will prove to have smaller audiences than their same-time competition on public radio.

The debate over how much to fund public radio or whether to fund it at all is a healthy one, but please, do it without misleading information.

John Sutton



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