Talk station KFI-AM (640) held onto the top spot in local radio last month and pop station KIIS-FM (102.7) remained second, according to figures released Wednesday by the Arbitron ratings service.
KFI averaged 5% of the Los Angeles-Orange County audience, winning weekday morning drive (6-10 a.m.) and finishing second in midday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and afternoon drive (3-7 p.m.). KIIS garnered a 4.8% share during the September ratings period, which surveyed listeners 6 and older from Aug. 20 to Sept. 16.
Meanwhile, oldies station KRTH-FM (101.1) jumped closer to the leaders, and solidified its hold on third place, increasing its audience share from August's 4.2% to 4.7%.
Adult-contemporary station KOST-FM (103.5) finished fourth at 4.1%, followed by hip-hop outlet KPWR-FM (105.9) at 3.9%.
Spanish-language pop station KLVE-FM (107.5) dropped from sixth to a tie for ninth, falling from 3.9% to 3.3%. And with regional Mexican music station KLAX-FM (97.9) dropping from 10th to 14th, slipping from 3.3% to 2.9%, that meant there was, for the first time in recent memory, only one Spanish-language station in the Top 10.
"I think what you're seeing here is the Spanish stations are having a war with Arbitron, and they're not necessarily winning," said Bill Tanner, a Los Angeles-based radio consultant and former executive vice president of programming for Spanish Broadcasting System, which owns KLAX and KXOL-FM (96.3).
Last year, Arbitron switched its method of surveying ratings in the Los Angeles market from diaries that selected listeners filled out based on what stations they tuned into, to passive devices called Portable People Meters. The People Meters, pager-sized units that automatically detect what stations the wearers hear, are supposed to be more accurate than the old diary system.
But owners of minority-oriented stations accuse the new system of undercounting black and Latino listeners, citing huge ratings drops when the People Meters first showed up in Philadelphia and Houston. Declines in Los Angeles weren't as drastic, but were still noteworthy.
People Meter defenders argue that the devices are more objective than the diaries, in which they say minority listeners overrepresented their favorite stations. Arbitron has invited outside audits and pledged to increase the sample sizes of meter wearers.
Tanner also suspected that KXOS-FM (93.9), the Spanish-language adult-contemporary station known as "Exitos," which switched from English-language pop in April, is taking a bite out of its competitors. KXOS doubled its audience share from 1% in June to 2% in September. "Those numbers come from somewhere," Tanner said.
Former all-news station KFWB-AM (980), which switched to a talk format on Sept. 8, featuring advice guru Laura Schlessinger and conservative commentators Laura Ingraham and Michael Smerconish, slipped from a 1% share and a tie for 31st place in August to a 0.8% share and a tie for 34th in September. October will be the first full month under the new format.