Today FM's listenership increases by 2%
The latest radio listenership figures show a decline in the number of those listening to RTE's two main stations to the advantage of the independent sector, notably Today FM, which had a significant gain - up 2 per cent to 11 per cent.
The JNLR/MRBI figures for the year ending December indicate a drop of 1 per cent for both Radio 1 and 2FM. The figures do not take account of radical changes introduced to Radio 1's morning and early afternoon schedule in January, which saw Marian Finucane switch to an earlier slot and the retirement from radio of Gay Byrne.
While the gain for Today FM is expected to help consolidate its presence on the airways, its 11 per cent share - based on "average weekday yesterday listenership" - remains low coming up to its second anniversary next month, and after a relaunch in January 1998. It has only 8 per cent of the large Dublin market.
Local radio continues to perform strongly, with its total up by 1 per cent to 52 per cent.
The results show radio listening continuing at a high level, with 89 per cent of adults listening each weekday, though levels drop off to 61 per cent on Saturdays and 59 per cent on Sundays.
RTE's director of radio, Ms Helen Shaw, said she was "more than pleased" with the underlying trends for RTE radio. The results showed that, despite extra competition, both Radio 1 and 2FM had retained their share of listening in the all-important Dublin market. She said that 45 per cent of all radio listening in Dublin is to RTE Radio 1, while 2FM retains joint first place among music stations (with FM104) - based on share of listening figures between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Though there were drops in RTE listenership overall, Ms Shaw noted that major morning programmes gained audiences, with almost half a million people tuning in to Morning Ireland and 359,000 to News at One.
Today FM said its first official annual figures indicated it was "Ireland's fastest growing independent radio station". They "reveal an impressive performance in the core target market of 25- to 34-year-olds", with Eamon Dunphy's Last Word show having significantly more listeners, the station claimed, in the core target market of 20-44 year olds, than Five Seven Live on RTE.
The figures reflected "the building of a loyal and staunch listenership", said Today FM chairman Mr John McColgan.
Local stations recorded "impressive increases", according to Mr Michael O'Keeffe, chief executive of the Independent Radio and Television Commission. He welcomed Today FM's increase and cited the performances of CKR FM, up 8 per cent; 95 FM, up five points to 60 per cent; and Tipperary Mid-West Radio, up five points to 43 per cent.
"Highland Radio now has a reach of 68 per cent in its north Donegal franchise area, up 2 per cent," he said.
The Association of Independent Radio Stations said the figures indicated "local radio is still top of the league with almost 1.5 million adults tuning in every day".