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Saturday, March 28, 2009
MRC Promotes Limbaugh Ratings, Corellation-Equals-Causation Fallacy
Topic: Media Research Center

The Media Research Center has been quick to attribute apparent increases in ratings for Rush Limbaugh's radio show to, as Brent Baker wrote in a March 26 post, "White House attacks on him." Baker does point out that, according to the right-wing Radio Equalizer post from which he obtained his information, there's something else at work: 

Finally, implementation of the new, far more accurate electronic Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings system has benefited talk radio, as the manual diary-based "phantom cume" problems of the past disappear. For years, programmers complained that the old system cost them listenership and are now armed with the proof they'd long sought.

Baker merely cites it as "another factor," when it may very well be the sole source of the ratings jump.

MRC chief Brent Bozell, meanwhile, issued this statement:

"President Obama declared war on Rush Limbaugh and his ratings went through the roof.  If that's not a magnificent backfire, I'm not sure what is.

"Maybe the White House has learned its lesson and will stop launching coordinated assaults on individual members of the media who disagree with them.  Hopefully, they haven't."

At no point does Bozell note the change in the ratings system.

CNN's Political Ticker uncritically cited the MRC's claims and quoted Bozell without noting the rating system change that appears to have played an equal, if not greater, factor.

It's also worth mentioning that none of the numbers Radio Equalizer cited came anywhere near previous claims that Limbaugh's ratings have doubled since January. Additionally, genuinely accurate radio ratings, particularly for a show airing on a patchwork of stations at various times of the day, are nearly impossible to compile.

Posted by Terry K. at 12:09 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, March 28, 2009 12:09 AM EDT

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