Radio 1 ratings fall below 10m barrier despite award haul

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The Independent Online

In the same week that BBC Radio 1 was crowned UK Station of the Year at the prestigious Sony awards, ratings figures revealed it had lost more than half a million listeners.

At the awards on Monday night the station also celebrated wins for its breakfast show DJ Chris Moyles, evening host Zane Lowe, and drive time presenter Scott Mills.

But just four days later the post-party hangover kicked in when the Radio Joint Audience Research (Rajar) listening figures, released quarterly, showed that in the first three months of the year, 560,000 listeners deserted the station. It means Radio 1's weekly reach - the number of adults (aged over 15) who tune in for at least five minutes a week - has crashed back through the crucial 10 million barrier to 9.7 million. The station's audience fell by 223,000, year on year.

It is a blow for controller Andy Parfitt, who has worked hard to revitalise the Radio 1 schedule with a line-up of new presenters, and a combination of mainstream music during the day and new music at night.

His efforts were recognised at the Sony awards when Radio 1 beat Radio 2 and alternative station XFM to win the coveted award for best UK station.

Moyles saw off competition from Chris Evans and Jonathan Ross to win the Entertainment Award for his controversial breakfast show. But yesterday's Rajar figures revealed that the self-declared "saviour of Radio 1" lost 340,000 listeners compared to the previous quarter. Year on year, however, he has boosted his audience by 143,000.

A BBC spokeswoman said Radio 1's decline was "unexplainable". "It's far too early to say it's a trend, it could just be a blip," she said, adding that the drop in listeners was across the schedule and not attributable to one particular presenter.

A spokesman for Radio 1 added: "We're not going to panic about it. We're focused on the long term and after two and a half years, Chris Moyles is still adding listeners."

When Radio 1's listening figures fell below the 10 million mark to an all-time low in 2003, Mr Parfitt overhauled the station's output, commissioning audience research to find out what listeners really want and changing 95 per cent of the schedule. One of his first hirings was Lowe, who this week won both Music Broadcaster of the Year and Best Specialist Music Programme at the Sony awards, for the second year running. The New Zealander, who hosts new music show The Evening Session, is credited with bridging the gap between urban music and rock.

Radio 2 is still the UK's most listened-to station, although its weekly audience fell 310,000 to 12.9 million between January and March. Terry Wogan remains the nation's favourite DJ, but his audience also fell 200,000 on the quarter to 7.7 million.

Chris Evans, voted Sony Music Personality of the Year, saw the audience for his Radio 2 Saturday afternoon show fall from 1.5 million to 1.43 million. He has now moved to Radio 2's drive time slot, where he has controversially replaced Johnnie Walker.

Thanks to test match cricket and football, Radio Five Live gained 449,000 listeners, pushing its audience up to 6.2 million. Radio 3's audience climbed back to more than 2 million.

In London's competitive commercial radioarena, Magic 105.4, the favourite of cab drivers in the capital who appreciate its promise of "more music, less talk", beat Capital Radio and Heart 106.2 to the number one slot.

XFM's new breakfast presenter Lauren Laverne boosted her audience 24 per cent to 340,000. Virgin's breakfast show host Christian O'Connell maintained an audience of 1.2 million.