MacKenzie's radio station is losing listeners

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The Independent Online

Kelvin Mackenzie, the ebullient former editor of The Sun , took a beating in his latest role as proprietor of Talk Radio yesterday, when it was revealed that the station lost more than 400,000 listeners during the third quarter of this year.

Kelvin Mackenzie, the ebullient former editor of The Sun , took a beating in his latest role as proprietor of Talk Radio yesterday, when it was revealed that the station lost more than 400,000 listeners during the third quarter of this year.

Mr MacKenzie bought the ailing station last November for £24.7m and vowed to turn it from a chat station, once filled with shock jocks and agony aunts, into a leading sport network. His consortium, which also includes Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, is using Talk as a base to buy other stations and build the country's fourth-largest radio group.

He had aimed to get rid of the station's older women listeners and bring in younger men, a demographic designed to attract advertisers. So far this year Mr MacKenzie has, say his competitors, implemented his policy with a vengeance, buying up exclusive radio rights to broadcast the home legs of European matches for both Manchester United and Newcastle.

He has also outbid the BBC to win the rights to test match cricket, and has exclusive rights on the boxing world championship rematch between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

So far, though, the result of his efforts has been the most dramatic loss of listeners of any radio station this year. Figures released by Rajar, the radio audience monitoring organisation, showed a decline of 17.5 per cent in the number of people tuning in during the week - from 2.8 million in the second quarter, to 1.87 million in the three months to September. The figures were so bad they helped undermine attempts by commercial radio as a whole to win more listeners than the BBC. Its share fell to 47.8 per cent from 49 per cent, while the BBC's share rose to 50.3 per cent from 48.9 per cent.

Rachell Fox, the operations director of the Commercial Radio Companies Association, said yesterday: "Talk Radio has spent six to nine months re-positioning their station ... we expect them not to do as well then there is not as much football being played."

Talk Radio's managing director, Jason Bryant, insists that Mr MacKenzie's plans have not gone awry. While listeners have been leaving in droves, Mr Bryant said that "there has been a 27.3 per cent increase in the number of 25 to 34-year-olds coming to Talk".

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