BBC gives Capital and Emap a 'kicking' in ratings battle

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The Independent Online

Capital Radio and Emap were the two big casualties of yesterday's radio listening figures, which showed youth and London stations suffering.

Capital Radio and Emap were the two big casualties of yesterday's radio listening figures, which showed youth and London stations suffering.

David Mansfield, Capital's chief executive, admitted he was "disappointed" with the Rajar audience data for the first quarter but said that rival Emap had a "major disaster" in London and Manchester.

The winner from the figures, which measure audience size and listening hours, was the publicly funded BBC, which saw audience share increase by 1 per cent, quarter-on-quarter, to 53.5 per cent. Mr Mansfield again called for more rigorous regulation of the BBC's public service remit, which he said was providing "head-on competition with the commercial sector".

In London, among commercial players, only Chrysalis's Heart showed gains. Virgin Radio, owned by SMG, was flat, despite a £3m marketing campaign.

Tim Schoonmaker, chief executive of Emap's radio business, said: "Commercial radio got a kicking this quarter. [BBC's] Radio 4 took us to the cleaners. The [Iraq] war was not good for us, but history would say that once armistice is declared, things go back to the way they were."

The official Rajar industry data showed that Capital's flagship 95.8FM station in London saw market share drop to a new low of 8.1 per cent during January, February and March. The company was looking for a recovery in the quarter after the third quarter of last year saw the station's share fall below 10 per cent for the first time, to 8.8 per cent. The fourth quarter had also came in at 8.8 per cent.

Mr Mansfield said: "It is a really aggressive market place. I said before the figures came out that I'd be disappointed if we did not show an increase, so I'm disappointed with the result."

However, the key breakfast show, which was revamped in January and is fronted by Chris Tarrant, put on 100,000 listeners in the quarter, after it had suffered a large drop previously to 1.5 million listeners.

"We've made some progress but not as much as I would have liked ... We have seen early signs of success [with the breakfast show]," said Mr Mansfield.

Emap's radio stations saw overall audience down 4.3 per cent, quarter-on-quarter, and listening hours were off 6.3 per cent. At its London flagship station, Kiss 100, audience was down 10 per cent to 4.1 per cent market share, while listening hours were 20 per cent lower.

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