Nielsen & Bubba The Love Sponge Settle Ratings Tampering Lawsuit
Nielsen and Bubba The Love Sponge have come to a settlement agreement in their lawsuits alleging ratings tampering by Bubba in the Tampa market.
Nielsen began investigating Bubba The Love Sponge in September 2015 accusing him of inappropriate contact with at least one household on the PPM panel while he was hosting mornings at Beasley Media’s “Bubba 98.7” WBRN-FM. Nielsen then sued the host for $1 million in damages stating that Bubba was approached by a listener that an acquaintance had a PPM device leading to offering to pay said person $300 per month to help increase his ratings and with bonuses up to $400 per month if a target result was reached. The suit mentions that Bubba purchased additional radios for the panelist. He sent texts stating that “U have to PROMISE NOT TO SAY A WORD … This could ruin me.” and instructed him to occasionally tune to other stations in order to attempt to deflect the fraud from being detected.
Bubba then countersued Nielsen and tried to add Cox Media Group and Mike Calta (morning host at Cox’s “102.5 The Bone” WHPT) to the suit claiming that that Cox and Nielsen conspired against him and Beasley Media through a sting operation and used its monopoly power to interfere with his relationship with Beasley by artificially increasing WHPT’s market share. Clem states that Nielsen was using the competition to entice Cox to pay for additional services and conceal their own fraudulent conduct committed by its own employees including Calta (who had replaced Bubba in mornings at WHPT). After multiple delays the trial was set to start later this month.
As part of the settlement Bubba, who was let go from WBRN-FM in December 2016 as the station was flipped to Adult Contemporary, admitted that he had not previously disclosed all contacts with Nielsen panelists, promised to never knowingly communicate with any active PPM panelist in the future, agreed to immediately notify Nielsen of any future contact with active panelists, and will make an undisclosed financial reimbursement to Nielsen. Should violate those agreements any future infractions will be subject to a court-ordered injuction and further financial damages.
Bubba The Love Sponge now airs in Tampa on Genesis Communications “News Talk Florida” 820 WWBA/98.3 W252DF.