RTÉ Radio 1 slips in JNLR figures but 2fm on comeback trail

‘Morning Ireland’ still in pole position with listeners

RTÉ Radio 1 continues to lose listeners, but the troubles at 2fm show signs of easing and Newstalk has made further advances, the latest radio ratings suggest.

The Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) survey for the period from April 2014 to March 2015 shows that Today with Seán O'Rourke was the only weekday daytime show to buck a trend of losses on Radio 1.

Morning Ireland, The John Murray Show and Liveline were among those that shed listeners since the last survey, exacerbating a longer-term trend. However, there were gains across the board at RTÉ 2fm, indicating that listeners are reacting positively to changes made to its schedule early last year.

"We still have a lot to do," said 2fm head Dan Healy. But the new line-up has bedded down and is acquiring momentum, he added. "Everybody is working their asses off."


Radio 1 head Tom McGuire said he was pleased that Seán O'Rourke's mid-morning listenership had climbed back above the 300,000 mark to 303,000, while at the same time his rival on Newstalk, Pat Kenny, was "becalmed" at 142,000.

He also pointed to a strong performance by the Saturday with Claire Byrne slot following Byrne’s return from maternity leave, and said he expected both Byrne and O’Rourke would be “firing on all cylinders” as Ireland heads into a general election.

But while Radio 1 will be happy with how the mid-morning O'Rourke-Kenny rivalry has panned out, it appears to have lost a chunk of breakfast listeners to the Communicorp station.

Morning Ireland, still the most listened-to radio programme in the country, has lost 27,000 listeners over the last year, taking it down to 417,000, while Newstalk Breakfast presented by Ivan Yates and Chris Donoghue continues to climb. It has an audience of 172,000, up 7,000 since the last survey and 35,000 over the past year.

Although Kenny's listenership was flat on the previous survey, station editor Garrett Harte said his show was on track to reach a target of 150,000 listeners later this year.

Mr Harte said the station was “particularly delighted” to pass the 400,000 daily listener mark for the first time. George Hook, who presents Newstalk’s drivetime show The Right Hook, saw his listenership bounce back and he is now closing in on Kenny’s tally, with an audience of 138,000.

Elsewhere, Ian Dempsey proved a highlight for Communicorp-owned Today FM with his listenership of 194,000 up 7,000 on the last survey. It is too soon to assess the popularity of Anton Savage, its replacement for Ray D'Arcy. The 9am-noon slot, occupied by D'Arcy for three-quarters of the survey period, has 212,000 listeners, slipping 3,000 since the last quarter.

Equally, it will be later in the year before D’Arcy’s performance on Radio 1 can be properly calculated. The afternoon slot he inherited in February is recorded as having a listenership of 183,000 for the year to the end of March, down 10,000 on the previous survey.

Though its lead was reduced, RTÉ Radio 1 still commands a 21.1 per cent share of national weekday listening, while 2fm increased its share to 7.1 per cent, up from 6.5 per cent. The music station, aimed at 15-34-year-olds, has been under pressure to return to profitability rather than weigh on RTÉ’s finances.

Newstalk’s national weekday share of listening is now 6.6 per cent, having grown from 5.6 per cent a year ago and nudged up slightly since the last survey.

Today FM’s national share fell slightly to 8.6 per cent. It made some gains in the capital, however, as did Lyric FM, 98FM and Radio Nova. FM104 and Q102, UTV Media’s two Dublin stations, saw their listenership fall back, but FM104 is still the second most-listened to station in Dublin.

In Cork, Red FM increased its share substantially at the expense of its rival 96FM. The latter, another UTV Media station, remains the most popular station in Cork, but Red FM has closed the gap.

The Irish radio market as a whole added 37,000 listeners over the course of the year.

About 16,650 people were interviewed during the year-long survey period by the research firm Ipsos MRBI on behalf of radio stations, advertising bodies and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Based on its findings, some 84 per cent of all adults listen to the radio on a typical day, tuning in for an average of almost four hours. Younger people are less likely to consume radio, with 78 per cent of the 15-34-year-old age group listening daily.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics