MacKenzie: 'speech radio is proving its critics wrong'

By Caitlin Pike

Takeover bid target TalkSport has recorded its highest weekly reach
in the latest Rajar figures, which place it ahead of music station
Virgin for the first time.

The news came as Ulster Television this week made a £98million bid for Talksport owner The Wireless Group.

Between
January and March 2005, TalkSport had a weekly reach of 2.5m adults – a
16 per cent increase on the same quarter last year, and up 500,000
listeners on the previous quarter.

Kelvin MacKenzie, chairman and
chief executive of The Wireless Group said: “This is a fantastic
chapter in the success story of TalkSport. There has been a lot of talk
in the music radio industry recently about speech formats not working
in commercial terms, but we are proving them wrong.”

The Wireless
Group is planning to launch a network of local speech stations under
the brand allTalk FM and is applying for licences in Manchester and the
Solent area. Its allTalk FM station in Edinburgh will begin
broadcasting later this year. “This is just the beginning for
commercial speech radio being able to take its rightful place in the
forefront of popular broadcasting in the UK,” said MacKenzie.

Despite TalkSport’s success, commercial radio’s overall share is now 10 per cent behind BBC radio at 43.8 per cent.

But out of the total number of hours listened to local radio, commercial radio takes a 76 per cent share.

BBC
Radio 4’s reach, at 9.26m listeners, is down year on year (9.37m) and
the quarter (9.41m). The station’s share remains stable on quarter at
11.4 per cent and up on the year (11 per cent).

Jo Hamilton, head
of research for BBC radio, said the station’s slight drop in reach “was
not something they were particularly concerned about”. She said the
figures are still higher than they were before the 11 September attacks
and the war in Iraq.

Radio 4 remains the most listened to station
in London with a reach of 2.4m listeners and a 14 per cent share of the
market. The capital’s most listened to commercial station, with a seven
per cent share of the market, is Heart fm.

The trend of listening
to radio on digital TV and over the internet continues, with 19 per
cent of adults listening via TV at least once a week compared with 7.7
per cent in the first quarter of 2002.

In March 2002, 10 per cent
of adults surveyed said they had listened to radio on the internet. In
March this year the figure had risen to 17.3 per cent.

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