MacKenzie claims current radio listening figures are a fraud

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The Independent Online
Kelvin Mackenzie, the combative chairman and chief executive of Wireless Group, vowed to take on the "vested interests" of the radio industry yesterday over a new way of measuring audiences that he is backing.</p>Mr MacKenzie, a former editor of The Sun</i>, said his radio group would consider bearing the entire costs of the new system itself, if the industry did not support the initiative.</p>The established Rajar audience counting system requires participants to write down in a diary which stations they listened to on a weekly basis. </p>"The current system is clearly a fraud. I've proved it. I've shown that Rajar is hopelessly wrong, relying on memory doesn't work," he said. </p>Mr MacKenzie's preferred system is based on a wrist watch that electronically records which stations participants are listening to. He said that this was much more reliable and in trials it produced much more favourable results for talk-based stations, such as Wireless' talkSPORT.</p>Reporting full-year results, Mr MacKenzie said the new system could double his company's £11m annual revenues. The bigger the audience a radio station can demonstrate, the more it can charge for advertising. In trials, talkSPORT's audience jumped from 2.4 to 8 million.</p>"They [other operators] are taking money that should belong to me," Mr MacKenzie said.</p>The industry, including the BBC, has so far supported the Rajar ratings system. </p>Phil Riley, chief executive of the radio division of Chrysalis, said the sector was interested in new electronic measures of audience but it wanted to move more slowly than Mr MacKenzie was demanding. Mr Riley said the industry was investigating alternative systems, including the wrist watch method.</p>"I think Kelvin would be barking mad to go with this on his own," said Mr Riley.</p>Wireless reported a pre-tax loss of £10.1m for 2001, down from a loss of £34.3m the previous year.</p>