BSkyB, Talksport and the BBC's Radio 4 yesterday received big increases in their measured audience under a new electronic system that challenges the industry standard.
In competition to the established Barb system for measuring TV viewers and the Rajar standard in the radio industry, GfK, a market research group, unveiled its alternative.
It showed that Radio 4 is the most popular radio station in Britain, with 17.9 million adult listeners per week or 40 per cent audience reach. This compares with 10 million listeners measured by Rajar in its last quarterly report, which had Radio 2 as the biggest station, with 13.2 million listeners. Radio 2 got 15.2 million under GfK's measure.
Rajar asks its survey sample to fill in a diary of the stations they listen to in a week. GfK has an electronic wristwatch that records the radio stations listened to by the wearer.
Kelvin Mackenzie's talkSPORT, a station owned by his Wireless Group, received a massive uplift from the GfK study. The station registered 8.1 million listeners a week, making it the biggest national commercial station - Rajar gave it 2.2 million listeners. Mr Mackenzie has long complained that Rajar is underestimating his station's reach.
Rajar was quick to dismiss the GfK report. Jane O'Hara, managing director of Rajar, said: "While the GfK research may be of interest to certain sectors of the media industry, its release will have no effect on Rajar's current research methodology and reporting format."
In television, where GfK includes out of home viewing (Barb works on programmes seen in the home), Sky News and Sky Sports 2 more than doubled their audiences, at 16.5 million and 8.9 million respectively.
GfK conducted its research in a six-week period in March and April. It said that the Iraq war during that time will have boosted audiences for the news and talk broadcasters.