Radio 1 ratings hit for Mark and Lard

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Mark and Lard, the Radio 1 disc jockeys sacked from the station's breakfast show three years ago, regained some pride yesterday when audience figures revealed their afternoon show to be a ratings success.

Mark and Lard, the Radio 1 disc jockeys sacked from the station's breakfast show three years ago, regained some pride yesterday when audience figures revealed their afternoon show to be a ratings success.

Mark Radcliffe and his sidekick Marc Riley attracted nearly half a million new listeners to their show during the past year, according to statistics released by the radio monitoring organisation Rajar. They now boast an audience of 5.3 million.

The pair's performance was distinctly better than in 1997, when they were dumped from the breakfast slot amid plummeting audiences. Zoe Ball and Kevin Greening were drafted in to rescue the situation. The breakfast show has fared well since, with its current host, Sara Cox, attracting 390,000 listeners more than Ball had at the same time last year.

In the most recent quarter - from June to September - audiences fell away by 180,000. "It's because of the summer holidays. Younger listeners don't have to get up as early and don't listen to the show," said a Radio 1 spokesman.

Overall, BBC Radio is outperforming commercial radio. It achieved 51.4 per cent share of total audiences in the quarter, up from 50.3 per cent a year earlier. All but one of the BBC national stations saw increased audiences - with Radio 2 building on its position as the nation's most listened-to station. During the year its weekly audience grew by more than 700,000 listeners to 10.2 million.

The figures also signalled early success for Radio 4's new controller Helen Boaden. The network gained 300,000 listeners during the quarter, taking it to 9.2 million. Radio 5 Live lost 200,000 listeners over the year taking it to 5.3 million.

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