RTÉ Radio 1 enjoys rise in talk, news audiences

Fri, May 15, 2009, 01:00

RTÉ HAS found the silver lining in the cloud of recession, with massive increases in radio listenership for its flagship news and talk programmes on Radio 1 in the latest industry figures.

All the station’s main presenters have seen their audiences grow and, once again, the 10 most popular shows are on RTÉ radio.

The only negative aspect for the State broadcaster of the latest JNLR/TNS mrbi figures is the poor showing of Gerry Ryan, who has dropped 11,000 listeners, and of music station 2FM generally.

The biggest growth was recorded by Joe Duffy, whose Livelineshow on Radio 1 gained a massive 21,000 listeners and passed the 400,000 mark for the first time with an audience of 413,000.

Station bosses will be reassured by the performance of Ryan Tubridy, who has added 18,000 new listeners to bring the audience for his morning radio show to 333,000, in advance of taking up the job of hosting The Late Late Show on television in the autumn. Outgoing Late Late Showpresenter Pat Kenny also added 18,000 listeners, to bring his radio audience to 323,000.

The survey shows that 86 per cent of the population listens daily to the radio, the highest figure since 2003. Some industry sources attribute this to the public thirst for news in difficult economic times, and point to the strong performance of Morning Ireland(up 13,000 to 450,000) and the News at One(up 16,000 to 351,000).

“In Britain, they turn to the BBC in times of war. Over here, it seems, we’re turning to voices of authority in times of austerity,” one observer commented.

Overall, RTÉ Radio 1 increased its market share by 0.8 per cent in the survey, which covers the period April 2008 to March 2009. Radio 1 now has a national market share of 22.7 per cent, almost twice the listenership of the next most popular station, RTÉ’s 2FM.

Clare Duignan, managing director of RTÉ Radio, said the figures were good news but also showed there were challenges for the broadcaster to address. 2FM saw its share of listenership drop by 0.2 per cent to 11.6 per cent, while commercial station Today FM suffered a 0.3 per cent fall in market share, to 10.6 per cent.

Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy saw his audience shrink by 7,000, to 235,000, while Matt Cooper lost 12,000 listeners. In February 2008, Cooper was ahead of Radio 1’s rival tea-time offering, Drivetime, presented by Mary Wilson, but his audience now stands at 192,000, a massive 49,000 behind.

The other national commercial station, Newstalk FM, enjoyed a marginal improvement by increasing its market share by 0.1 per cent to 3.6 per cent. George Hook added 8,000 listeners and passed 100,000 for the first time.

Classical music station Lyric FM, which recently marked its 10th anniversary, was unchanged at 1.7 per cent.

Radio 1’s dominance is greatest in Dublin. It holds a 31.4 per cent share of listenership, up 0.9 per cent. Music station FM104 comes next, with a 12.6 per cent share, followed by Dublin’s 98FM on 11 per cent and 2FM on 10.1 per cent. Newstalk has a 7.3 per cent market share, ahead of Today FM on 6 per cent.

The most listened-to local station remains Highland Radio in Co Donegal, which increased its market share by 2.1 per cent to 62.4 per cent. Tipp FM rose 3.3 per cent to 52.3 per cent. In contrast, Mid-West Radio lost 4.1 per cent and is now listened to by 52.2 per cent of the local population. The least listened-to are Kfm, with 16.5 per cent; Galway Bay FM, at 20.6 per cent; and East Coast FM, at 27.1 per cent.