Londoners lead big switch-off for breakfast radio news shows

Radio 4’s Today and LBC’s Nick Ferrari (inset) have both lost listeners

Breakfast radio shows fared badly in the second quarter of this year as listeners deserted early-morning news and current affairs programmes on BBC and commercial radio alike.

According to the latest figures from radio industry ratings research body Rajar, Londoners in particular shunned BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme Today, Five Live’s Breakfast and LBC’s Nick Ferrari programme.

In the period from 21 March to 20 June, Today lost 50,000 listeners quarteron-quarter and 300,000 year-onyear, taking its reach down to 6.17 million and marking the programme’s third consecutive fall in ratings.

Overall, however, Radio 4 saw a 2 per cent gain on the last quarter – 140,000 listeners to a total of 9.5 million. This was still below the 10 million reached in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Radio Five Live’s Breakfast, presented by Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty, lost 272,000 listeners in the quarter, slumping to 2.35 million.

The listeners who deserted the programme over the period (166,000 year-on-year) were in sharp contrast to a gain of 344,000 listeners in the previous quarter that took the reach up to 2.6 million and began to narrow the gap between Breakfast and Radio 4’s Today.

At LBC 97.3FM, Nick Ferrari’s show lost a massive 33 per cent of its listeners in the quarter – from 435,000 down to 291,000.

Overall, the station’s listeners dropped from 697,000 in the last quarter to 596,000 but were up year-onyear from 517,000.

Pete Simmons, group head of programming at the station’s owner, Chrysalis Group, said the swapping of frequencies between the speech-based 97.3FM and its rolling news sibling LBC 1152AM last year caused confusion among listeners and may have been a factor in the slump.

The latter recorded 326,000 listeners – down from 368,000 the previous quarter and 444,000 year-on-year.

Conversely, post-breakfast current affairs programmes tended to gain listeners.

Five Live’s morning show gained 32,000 listeners in the quarter, but lost 62,000 year-on-year, giving a reach of 1.84 million.

Meanwhile, Rajar managing director Sally de la Bedoyère said the court hearing for The Wireless Group’s £70m lawsuit against the ratings researcher is scheduled to take place in “early November” this year.

TWG sued Rajar in March for damages of more than £66m in lost advertising revenue and up to £1.5m in costs, and is seeking a ruling that Rajar’s refusal to introduce electronic audience measurement is “unlawful”.

By Wale Azeez

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