Saturday, October 25, 2003

TUNE IN: We're starting to think that Kelvin McKenzie might have a point about the Rajar methodology (although it pains us to admit that he's right about anything), as we're not sure that the new set of listening figures makes any sort of sense. They claim that Capital has just been unseated as number one commercial station in London after 30 years and, oddly, that the station's breakfast station has lost a fifth of listeners in a year. Now, it could be that all those people have switched off because Chris Tarrant keeps taking long holidays - but how many of the listeners are down to the people filling out their diairies not hearing Chris' voice and assuming they're on some other station? And we're not entirely sure the figures for Digital stations really bear anything other than a passing glance at the actual figures. Can Rajar really claim their panel has the same proportion of people who regularly tune into web, Dsat and DAB radio as you find in the general population?

But even if we take the figures as being genuine, we're a little curious as to why Media Guardian is being so grumpy about what they're reporting. 1Xtra has a reach of a third of a million and the Asian Network is pulling a half million, which isn't bad when you consider that neither has a national analogue radio platform, and are aimed at highly targetted audiences - Virgin has got an AM network, a broad-appeal format and only manages 1.4 after a decade on air.

Having said which, 154 000 weekly listeners for 6Music would be a bit of a blow, but it's not a figure we can believe in, I'm afraid. Either we know, personally, every single 6Music listener, or else they've fucked up the count badly, and my instinct says that it's the latter. What's curious is that the commercial digital channels run by EMAP are returing far more solid audience figures - and, strangely, Rajar's commercial figures are based on samples double the size. If the company really want to be taken seriously as the arbiter of audience figures for 21st century radio, they're going to have to make some serious changes to the way they produce their surveys.

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