Firefighters Battle To Curb California Wildfire Before Winds Return

In-depth news and talking heads waltzed over country music to lead the Chico radio market last fall.

Northstate Public Radio (KCHO-FM 91.7) and KPAY-AM 1290 tied for first in the share of total listeners, based on Arbitron Inc.”s ratings for fall 2005.

For the past year, country music ruled the highly segmented radio roost in the twice-yearly surveys.

The Blaze (KHSL-FM 103.5) was king in the spring but shared third place with Club 967 (KZAP-FM 96.7) in the fall. Country station KALF-FM 95.7 was first in fall 2004 but came in fourth last quarter.

Joe Oleksiewicz, KCHO”s program director, said the high placement is good news which he attributes to the station”s lineup. He noted that “Morning Edition” is the station”s best-ranked program, often ranking at or near the top compared to other morning programs.

“I”m impressed that the overall numbers are so good,” he said.

Northstate Public Radio is operated by Chico State University.

Noncommercial radio ratings aren”t listed alongside commercial stations but the data is the same, according to Arbitron spokeswoman Jessica Benbow. She said Arbitron provides commercial data to be used to help sell advertising. Noncommercial radio data is licensed to the Radio Research Consortium.

Benbow said many public radio stations appear to have a high market share, but didn”t have firm information.

“I believe it happens often,” she said.

KCHO”s No. 1 position appears to be unique among many Northern California radio markets although San Francisco”s KQED-FM 88.5 is the second-highest rated station in its market.

Chico community station KZFR-FM 90.1 ranks ninth. In Redding, KCHO”s sister station KFPR-FM 88.9 checks in at eighth. Capital Public Radio in Sacramento has two stations — KXPR-FM 88.9 and KXPR-FM 90.9 — which rank 11th and 12th there.

Nationally, KCHO is 16th on the consortium”s top 30 ranking of public radio stations based on their hold of the local market. Only one California public radio station — KCBX-FM 90.1 in San Luis Obisbo — has a larger piece of its local market.

The commercial news-talk format appears to fare better in San Francisco and Sacramento with KGO-AM 810 and KFBK-AM 1530 topping their respective cities” charts.

Dino Corbin, general manager and co-owner of Deer Creek Broadcasting, said it”s great to have No. 1 bragging rights, but stations look at more specific data to target advertisers. Deer Creek owns KPAY, The Blaze and four other stations in Chico.

“Although that”s a nice fun thing, that doesn”t mean anything in our world,” Corbin said.

Arbitron”s publicly available data reports listeners older than 12 years who listen to the radio some time between 6 a.m. and midnight everyday. Radio stations pay Arbitron for more specific information breaking the numbers down based on certain time periods and a listener”s age and buying habits.

“Ratings — you can slice the bologna a lot of different ways,” Corbin said.

Looking at KHSL”s decline, Corbin said ratings for specific radio stations can swing from season to season. He said the station”s drop isn”t as great in its key demographic and it remains very highly ranked for women ages 18 to 49.

Corbin said Arbitron will begin averaging the ratings between two different periods to provide a more accurate picture. Arbitron collects its data by having people record their listening in diaries. The number of diaries and survey frequency depends on the market”s size. Arbitron collected 544 diaries in its twice-annual survey of Chico, the nation”s 199th largest radio market.

“The sample that we have is reflective of the population in that particular market,” Benbow said.

Although KPAY competes with Northstate Public Radio for a share of total listeners, Corbin said KPAY”s offerings of conservative talk shows don”t directly face-off with Northstate Public Radio”s mix of news and classical music.

KCHO can”t publicly compare its ratings to others, but Oleksiewicz is able to determine that younger, male listeners tend to listen to KCHO”s news programming while older, female listeners tend to skew towards classical music. In addition to “Morning Edition,” weekend fare such as “Car Talk” and “A Prairie Home Companion” are also popular.

Northstate Public Radio uses its ratings alongside pledge drives and listener feedback to determine how its programming is doing. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and others use the ratings to determine KCHO”s level of funding.

“It”s part of the mix,” Oleksiewicz said.

Staff writer Ryan Olson can be reached at 896-7763 or rolson@chicoer.com.

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