Radio Foyle has lost 8k weekly listeners
RADIO Foyle’s listenership has dipped substantially over the past two years falling from 32,000 listeners per week in July-September 2010 to just 24,000 listeners per week in April-June 2012 - a 25 per cent collapse, the Sentinel can reveal.
Listenership at the local station also suffered a sharp dip at the start of this year (from 32,000 to 27,0000 listeners) having recovered substantially during 2011.
However, whilst the average reach has fallen the percentage share of total listening time accounted for by the Northland Road station has actually increased steadily over the same two year period.
The fall in listeners follows a marginal reduction in local programming at Radio Foyle under a scheduling shake-up in December 2010 when radio chiefs promised a stronger North West focus from Radio Ulster.
Before December 6, 2010, the Northland Road station was putting out eight hours of local programming a day but this was cut by 30 minutes as part of a head office rationalisation move.
The changes included The Stephen Nolan show being installed as the only choice for North West BBC listeners between 9am and 10.30am for the first time.
A new peak time breakfast show anchored by Enda McClafferty and Sarah Brett and a new lunchtime programme with Mark Patterson were also introduced, whilst Sean Coyle was given a newly extended afternoon music programme from 3pm-5pm.
The Gerry Anderson show survived the changes whilst Radio Ulster staples Talkback and Arts Extra continued to be aired in the North West as before.
Now the Sentinel can reveal that the amount of weekly listeners has fallen by 8k across Radio Ulster/Radio Foyle since October-December 2010.
The BBC provided data to the paper from BBC Northern Ireland/Radio Joint Audio Research (RAJAR) and a spokesperson told the paper that in the last quarter before the scheduling shake-up was introduced (Quarter 3, July-September 2010): “Programming broadcast on BBC Radio Foyle, as reported by RAJAR, received an average weekly audience of 32,000 listeners. Share of listening for BBC Radio Foyle was 8.1 per cent.)”
Fast forward to April-June 2012 and the BBC confirmed: “Programming broadcast on BBC Radio Foyle, as reported by RAJAR, received an average weekly audience of 24,000 listeners. Share of listening for BBC Radio Foyle was 12.8 per cent.”
After the programming changes were introduced in late 2010 there was an initial drop of 4,000 listeners. In Quarter 4, October-December 2010: “Programming broadcast on BBC Radio Foyle, as reported by RAJAR, received an average weekly audience of 28,000 listeners. Share of listening for BBC Radio Foyle was 9.7 per cent.”
In 2011 there was a recovery which held steady throughout the year with listenership hovering around the 32k mark: Quarter 1, January-March 2011 (average weekly audience of 31,000 listeners; share of listening 9.2 per cent); Quarter 2, April-June 2011 (average weekly audience of 32,000 listeners; share of listening 9.8 per cent); Quarter 3, July-September 2011 (average weekly audience of 31,000 listeners; share of listening 8.9 per cent); and Quarter 4, October-December 2011 (average weekly audience of 32,000 listeners; share of listening 9.6 per cent).
But listenership slumped again in the first two quarters of 2012 falling by 5k listeners in Quarter 1, January-March 2012 (average weekly audience of 27,000 listeners; share of listening 10.8 per cent) and even further in Quarter 2, April-June 2012 (average weekly audience of 24,000 listeners; share of listening 12.8 per cent.)
A BBC Northern Ireland spokesperson told the Sentinel: “In highly competitive times, we remain happy with BBC Radio Foyle’s performance in terms of share and reach according to RAJAR listening figures and BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle remains the most listened to station in Northern Ireland. BBC Northern Ireland constantly reviews BBC Radio Ulster/ BBC Radio Foyle’s output to ensure it remains relevant and engaging to our listeners.”
This time last year a review of Radio Foyle - classed as one station alongside Radio Ulster - found it the most listened to radio station in Northern Ireland but the BBC Trust warned of fiscal uncertainty ahead as the station tried to maintain strong performance, remain distinctive and continue to reflect social and political change.
Equally, a limited number of North West respondents to a public consultation informing the new service review expressed dissatisfaction over the scrapping of Eamon Friel’s Saturday Club and approval for Radio Foyle programming that has since been scrapped or shifted - including Mark Patterson’s former afternoon show and the Sarah Brett and Paul McFadden shows which have been replaced by the Stephen Nolan Show.
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