The biggest commercial radio broadcaster in the US, Clear Channel Communications is running out of patience with current audience measurement techniques.

It will ask its provider Arbitron and, more significantly, other firms to come up with proposals for replacing the personal diaries system.

Market researcher Arbitron has a contract through 2008 with Clear Channel. But radio executives have long been dissatisfied with the system, which relies on written diaries by listeners over a three-month period. The information is published a month later.

Says Clear Channel ceo John Hogan: "That's crazy given the technology that's available today. We think it's appropriate to ask for audience estimates based on current technology that are more reliable, more accurate and more readily available. We spend $55 million (€45m; £30m) a year on ratings information. We want more for our money."

At stake are the rates the $21 billion US radio industry can charge for advertising, currently based on ratings and surveys conducted by Arbitron.

The company is testing electronic meters to replace the diaries and, says spokesman Thom Mocarsky: "We've been beating the drum for electronic measurement for a long time."

Similar doubts about the accuracy of paper diaries have been expressed in the UK where Kelvin Mackenzie, the soon to be ex-ceo of the Wireless Group, resorted to the courts (albeit unsuccessfully) against audience measurement provider RAJAR [WAMN: 20-Dec-04].

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff