'Listen while you surf' boost for radio

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The Independent Online

Radio audiences have increased dramatically because people are using the internet and listening to the wireless at the same time.

Figures released yesterday by the Rajar audience research group show Britons listen to an average of 24 hours' radio a week, up from 22.4 a year ago. A BBC executive, Vanessa Phillips, said evening and night listening had increased most. Preliminary indications are that radio is benefiting because it can be enjoyed while on the internet, whereas watching television at the same time is more challenging.

While radio overall is booming, Kelvin MacKenzie's TalkSport radio station announced its worst audience figures in five years. He had hoped for an improvement before the 25 May flotation of 25 per cent of his Wireless Group company.

TalkSport's share fell to 1.4 per cent from 1.8 per cent a year ago, continuing the decline that has dogged Mr MacKenzie since he implemented his policy of turning the station from a chat network to sports. The total of TalkSport listeners increased in the first quarter of this year by 140,000 to 2.38 million but the combination of better figures for total radio listening and a fall in the amount of hours each listener tuned in to TalkSport led to the overall share decline.

A competitors said: "TalkSport will suffer in the coming months because of the end of the football season and the fact that Radio 5 Live has exclusive rights to Euro 2000 and the Olympics."

The Rajar quarterly figures also show the continued success of Radio 2, which raised its audience share from 12.8 per cent to 13.3 per cent, making it Britain's most listened to radio station. Classic FM also did well, achieving a record 4.4 per cent share.