RTÉ Radio 1 loses weekend listeners as thousands desert flagship shows


RTÉ’S WEEKEND radio schedule lost some of its lustre in recent months with thousands of listeners tuning out from flagship shows, according to the latest Joint National Listenership Survey.

Marian Finucane’s Sunday programme lost 23,000 listeners in the period from July 2011 to June 2012 when compared with April 2011 to March 2012. Her Saturday show lost 1,000 listeners.

Miriam O’Callaghan’s Miriam Meets programme lost 16,000 listeners in the same period. Both presenters had been recording strong listenership gains in recent surveys.

However, another weekend show, The Business, presented by George Lee, did not suffer the same fate, gaining 4,000 listeners. Marian Richardson’s Playback retained its listenership at 315,000.

The Ipsos MRBI/JNLR survey had mixed news for RTÉ. Morning Ireland is still the most listened to radio programme in the State with 444,000 listeners but it lost 5,000 compared with the last survey. News at One gained 7,000 listeners but Today with Pat Kenny lost 5,000.

But there was good news for RTÉ’s Mary Wilson, who is still presenting the most popular tea-time show, Drivetime, which gained 14,000 listeners, bringing her listenership to 259,000.

This widens the gap considerably between Wilson and her drive-time rivals. Today FM’s The Last Word, presented by Matt Cooper, had 174,000 listeners, an increase of 8,000 on the previous survey, while Newstalk’s George Hook had 130,000.

The Right Hook’s listenership was unchanged from the last survey but represented an increase of 11,000 listeners in the last year, Newstalk pointed out.

As well as talking to Joe, the survey found thousands more were listening to Joe Duffy. He gained 11,000 listeners for his phone-in programme Liveline.

RTÉ produced 18 of the 20 most listened-to programmes in the State in the survey. Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy and Ian Dempsey are the only non-RTÉ presenters in the top 20. The independent station welcomed the findings, saying it had recorded growth in every daytime weekday show compared with the same period last year.

Its chief executive, Peter McPartlin, said the station had added more than 100,000 listeners per week in the last 12 months. The Ray D’Arcy Show had achieved its highest listenership – 255,000 – since the morning show began almost 12 years ago. Dempsey’s breakfast show gained 6,000 listeners when compared with the last survey, while Tony Fenton also gained 6,000.

RTÉ 2fm head John McMahon said the station had “a clean sweep” with listenership up across its daytime schedule. He said Hector Ó hEochagáin, who hosts the 2fm breakfast slot, gained 8,000 listeners compared with the last survey, while Ryan Tubridy gained 3,000. This was good news for Tubridy, who had lost 4,000 listeners in the last survey.

RTÉ Radio’s managing director Clare Duignan singled out the success of Drivetime and Liveline and said Radio 1 had gained listeners exactly where it needed to, in the highly competitive afternoon and drive-time schedule.

“Over on Lyric FM, the upward trend also continues, with strong gains both book-on-book and year- on-year,” she said.

RTÉ Radio 1’s market share was 23 per cent while Today FM’s was 9.9. 2fm held a 7.7 per cent market share and Newstalk’s share was 4.6 per cent.

In Dublin, FM104 had a market share of 12.2 per cent, followed by Q102 at 8.3 per cent.

The survey found 85 per cent of Irish adults listened to the radio on an average day. Some 58 per cent tuned into their local or regional station and 47 per cent listened to a national station. Among the 15-34-year-old market, 81 per cent listened daily.

Loyalty to local radio was particularly strong in Mayo, the Shannonside area and north Donegal. “In particular, on the criterion of share of minutes listened during prime 7am to 7pm, Highland Radio, Tipp FM, Radio Kerry and MWR [Midwest Radio, based in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo] hold the majority share position in their franchise areas,” the survey noted.