Rajar prepares for cutbacks

LONDON - Rajar, the radio audience measurement body, has been asked by its BBC and commercial radio backers to examine cutbacks to ready it for the recession.

Capital presenters Johnny and Lisa
Capital presenters Johnny and Lisa

Rajar's four full-time members of staff will keep their jobs. And Sally de la Bedoyere, managing director, insisted its cost-cutting focus will not affect its investment in the development of online diaries, to replace paper diaries.

In addition, the number of representatives on the Rajar board from the BBC and commercial radio sector is falling from four apiece to three. Previously, there were two representatives from Global Radio and one each from Bauer Media and RadioCentre. But since the takeover of GCap by Global Radio last year, the count has reduced to three. And the BBC has also reduced the number of board members to three.

The cutbacks come as the latest set of Rajars, for the final three months of 2008, show that rebranded Absolute radio lost more than a fifth of its audience since ditching the Virgin brand. The station, which rebranded on 29 September after Virgin Radio's acquisition by Times of India Group, posted a 23.6% decline in reach year on year in Q4. In London, the station's reach was down 7.4% quarter on quarter and 11.2% year on year.

Clive Dickens, Absolute radio's programme and operations director, said the decline was expected. He said the fall was partially due to misattribution by listeners who fill in the Rajar diaries - despite Absolute's labelling in the Q4 diaries being supplemented by the reminder: (was Virgin Radio).

Commercial radio's share dipped slightly year on year to 42.2%, after posting year-on-year increases in the previous two quarters. Consequently, BBC Radio's audience share rose from 54.9% in Q3 to 55.7% in Q4.

RAJAR FACTS AND FIGURES

Bauer Radio's Magic 105.4 remained the most-listened-to station in the crucial London market for the eighth consecutive quarter running in Q4

Global Radio's 95.8 Capital FM breakfast show held on to the mantle of the most popular breakfast show in the capital

Magic 105.4 posted an average weekly reach of 1.99 million in the last quarter of 2008, up 5.9% on the previous quarter and 1.9% year on year. It scooped a 6% share of the London audience

95.8 Capital FM's breakfast show was up from 942,000 listeners in Q4 2007 to 981,000 in Q4 2008. Heart 106.2 maintained its second position in the London breakfast sector with 868,000 listeners, up 100,000 from the previous quarter

Helen Keable, head of radio at Manning Gottlieb OMD, said: "The whole market has settled. Magic has found a strong formula and stuck with it. Heart and Capital have also found their path and been more consistent. Radio has needed stability and it's finally come to the market."

Amanda Barrett, radio engagement specialist, Universal McCann, added: "Heart in London has lost out on hours - people are listening less - despite a national marketing campaign. I don't think the national roll out of the brand will affect the London market as it's a unique market place but I expect to see short term losses on the local stations which are rebranding to Heart."

981,000 - Average daily listeners to 95.8 Capital FM's Johnny Vaughan and Lisa Snowdon breakfast show

42.2% - Commercial radio's share of listening - bringing an end to two consecutive quarters of growth for the sector

23.6% - Year-on-year decline in Absolute radio's audience in Q4, following its rebrand from Virgin Radio

Note: all data refers to Q4 2008 Rajars.

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