Bumper listening figures for Scottish radio stations, says RAJAR

IT was perhaps because of the bad weather, when radio became an invaluable source of news about road and school closures, but radio listening figures were significantly up across the board throughout Scotland during the last three months of last year, according to official statistics just released.

According to data published by radio audit body, RAJAR, around half of Scotland’s radio stations enjoyed a year-on-year increase in their reach (as measured by at least five minutes’ listening, by adults, per week) by over ten per cent.

And among the most spectacular increases was enjoyed by Forth2 – part of the Bauer Media network that also includes Clyde and Northsound. Says RAJAR, its reach was a massive 42.3 per cent up between the fourth quarter of last year and the fourth quarter the year before. And the rise was reflected in a 11 per cent rise in reach between Q3 last year and the following quarter.

Translated, that was a reach of 78,000 during the last three months of 2009 and one of 110,000 12 months later.

That said, sister station, ForthOne, saw its reach fall 13.4 per cent, year-on-year, and by 8.4 per cent quarter-on-quarter.

But there were double-digit percentage increases in reach between Q4 2009 and Q4 2010 also for 96.3 Rock Radio (13 per cent), Smooth Radio (14 per cent), Tay FM (20.4 per cent), Wave 102 FM (28 per cent), Moray Firth Radio (11.1 per cent), Radio Borders (19.2 per cent) and Central FM (13.6) – the last of these stations, Central FM, recently chosen as the best Scottish station operating to a maximum possible adult population of under 300,000, as part of the upcoming Sony Radio Academy Awards.

Galaxy Scotland – recently renamed Capital Scotland and which named, the other day, the well-known Scots radio figure, Paul Cooney, as its managing director – enjoyed a year-on-year increase in its reach of 43.6 per cent, representing, remarkably, a slight levelling off on recent figures of just over 100 per cent.

It was a pretty good set of RAJARs too for BBC Radio Scotland, that saw its reach increase by four per cent in its quarter-on-quarter figures, representing an increase in the number of adults tuning in for at least five minutes per week from 895,000 to 931,000.

When also translated into its share of total listening time in its geographical area, BBC Radio Scotland registered 7.5 per cent in Q3 last year and 8.4 per cent the following three months.

In a statement issued by BBC Radio Scotland, its head, Jeff Zycinski, is quoted, saying: “These figures are positive news for all of us at BBC Radio Scotland. I’ve no doubt our response to the bad weather in November and December encouraged more listeners to tune in. I also believe we’re shaping a schedule which responds to the audience appetite for information presented by popular personalities such as Gary Robertson, Kaye Adams, Fred MacAulay and John Beattie. As ever we’re also drawing big numbers at the weekend thanks to the continued success of Sportsound and Off The Ball.”

Among very few ‘losers’, Northsound Two saw its year-on-year figure drop 24.6 per cent, but with a 4.9 per cent increase in its quarter-on-quarter reach. Real Radio Scotland saw its year-on-year reach figure drop 7.2 per cent, and its quarter-on-quarter one fall by 6.5 per cent.

When it comes to share, it’s almost impossible to beat Radio Borders, which this time pitched in with a 39.3 per cent figure for the last three months of last year, up 6.9 per cent on 12 months before.

In its statement on the latest RAJARs, Bauer said: “Bauer Media Scotland today underlined its dominant position in the Scottish radio market. The Scottish network of radio stations has a combined weekly audience of 1.75 million according to the latest RAJAR audience figures, up 52,000 listeners from the previous quarter. Bauer Media Scotland is the No 1 commercial broadcaster in all market places across Scotland, with commercially the No 1 breakfast show at every one of its stations. Overall, it commands a market share of 23.7 per cent highlighting its strength across the country.

“Flagship station, Clyde 1’s recent revamp with a strong focus on local content, a new daytime line-up and tailored programming has paid dividends. The station has increased its reach to 558,000, and in market share is seven points clear of its nearest commercial rival in Glasgow and the West. Bauer Media Scotland’s, Forth 1, remains the most listened-to station across Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife with 272,000 listeners.

“Bauer Media Scotland’s breakfast shows have been ranked the most listened to across the country in Glasgow and the West, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and Ayrshire.

“The Bauer Media Scotland AM group of stations across the region report steady growth in weekly reach with the audience figure rising to 428,000 delivering 3.6 million listening hours.”

The statement goes on to state ‘highlights’, thus: “Moray Firth Radio has a market share of up to 30 per cent with a 56 per cent reach across its broadcast area. At Clyde 1, Superscoreboard has an 18.6 per ent share of the audience, seven per cent higher than its nearest rival. At Tay FM, its Drivetime show, hosted by John Milne, has increased by 23,000 listeners year-on-year – a 44 per cent increase.

“At Forth One, Breakfast show – Boogie in the Morning – retains the breakfast top spot with an audience share of 15.1 per cent. Radio Borders is the UK’s number 1 radio station and has a reach of 58 per cent and a market share of 39.3 per cent. Northsound remains number 1 in its TSA [total survey area] with increases in both reach and hours, quarter-on-quarter, increasing its market share to 21.6 per cent. With 180,00 listeners Westsound (inc West FM) ranks No1 in its marketplace.”

Bauer Media Scotland’s managing director, Graham Bryce, said he was particularly pleased with how a new line-up at Clyde 1 – including pairing George Bowie and Suzie McGuire in the morning and handing ‘Knoxy’ the drivetime slot – has shaped up.

He is quoted, in the statement, saying: “I’m especially proud of the prominence that Clyde 1 continues to demonstrate in Glasgow and the West. A clear indication that the recent changes to the line-up and attention to detail across each show has really paid off.”

Writes John Collins – radio broadcasting lecturer, Central FM presenter and regular allmediascotland columnist: “The winter release is traditionally good news for radio stations, with the increase in audience driven by sport and weather. That accounts for some of the good news at, for example, BBC Radio Scotland where the speech format lends itself to the delivery of information. Similarly, Forth 2 has a long history in its local market as the station of note when localness really counts. You’ll see this trend echoed around the country.

“But the one trend that catches my eye is the rise of the networked national brands with one or two shows produced locally. Smooth, Rock and Capital have all enjoyed good books at a time when many would have expected the opposite. The clever injection of local content into a national format has worked well with the segments of the audience who listen mainly for music.

“When reading the results and the accompanying press releases, remember that the field work for the survey ended at Christmas time. For all but the largest operations it covered the six months from July. With so much of the new content appearing in the first month of 2011 the RAJAR is already well out of date. So be careful of stations passing off the result of as a vindication of recent changes. These haven’t been put to the test yet.

“The biggest surprise in all of this is the losses Real Radio have suffered. While always a strong brand, the figures suggest that [the departure of] Robin Galloway [over a prank that his bosses are alleged to have taken exception to] has been a huge loss as their marquee name. Taking Ewen Cameron from the very successful evening football phone-in, to co-host Galloway’s breakfast slot, was a brave move. Galloway has now joined Clyde 1. Real has shed more audience than some of its competitors’ total audience and it would be unsurprising to see some changes in the coming months.”