TAMPA — Radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem admitted to ratings tampering charges at a news conference Tuesday.
In a short statement to reporters, Clem admitted that he was contacted by a Nielsen ratings panelist and that he tried to influence that person's listening habits.
"I can't tell you how humbled and embarrassed I am," Clem said after apologizing to listeners, advertisers and staff.
Clem, who has been off the air at WBRN-FM 98.7 since Sept. 26, returned to the air Tuesday morning.
Clem refused to take questions from reporters after his statement.
"It's not acceptable and I take full responsibility," he said before departing the news conference.
The company that employs Clem, Beasley Media, said Monday that it strongly condemned Clem's actions.
Nielsen calculates its ratings by putting listening devices that look like pagers on people. Each person represents thousands of listeners in a given market. Those people are meant to be kept secret, and the panelists are changed every 18 months to avoid unusual behavior.
Beasley said Clem's conduct had no effect on the Tampa Bay radio ratings because the improper activity was discovered quickly.
"I don't know what the future of my program is going to be, but if I can continue to broadcast I can tell you I will never attempt to do anything this stupid again," Clem said.
Nielsen removed the participant's results from the survey. In a separate statement, Nielsen also said the ratings weren't affected in any of the markets.
Beasley said Clem and his staff must undergo ratings compliance training. The company declined to comment further after Clem's news conference. While it's unclear what kind of consequences may fall on the station, media expert Gordon Borrell said it's likely they will face fines.
"The real damage will come from his advertisers," Borrell said. "The station's reputation is at stake, which has become very important in this day and age because there are so many other mediums where companies can advertise. If they feel cheated, they'll go somewhere else."
Information from the Associated Press supplements this report. Contact Justine Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @SunBizGriffin.