Radio 1 ends slump with 600,000 new listeners

Audience rise vindicates controller's decision to target younger music fans with radically revamped line-up
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The Independent Online
RHYS WILLIAMS

Media Correspondent

Radio 1's two-year audience slump ended yesterday when industry research showed that it had put on 600,000 listeners in the second quarter of this year.

Figures released by Rajar (Radio Audience Joint Research) showed that after a long decline, the number of people tuning into Radio 1 had risen to just over 11 million, compared with 10.5 million in the previous quarter. Audiences are still 1.2 million down on the same period last year.

The revival suggests the station's million-pound gamble of hiring Chris Evans as Steve Wright's successor on the breakfast show has paid off. Since his arrival at the end of April, breakfast audiences have risen by 10 per cent to 6.8 million from 6.2 million, with major gains among younger listeners.

Daytime shows hosted by Simon Mayo, Lisa I'Anson, Nicky Campbell and Mark Goodier have increased their weekly reach by about 10 per cent, while the new music and indie showcase, the Evening Session, has added one-third.

Matthew Bannister, controller of Radio 1, said: "We have always taken a long-term view of the repositioning of Radio 1 and I have never doubted we were doing the right thing. Ratings are not the only game. Obviously we're pleased when they go up, but our major aim is to be the sound of the young United Kingdom, supporting new talent and music and reflecting current trends and attitudes."

The figures appears to vindicate the strategy adopted by Mr Bannister, who masterminded a radical revamp of the station's line-up and output in the autumn of 1993. The shake-up precipitated the departure of the network's ageing disc jockeys such as Simon Bates, Dave Lee Travis and Bob Harris, and led to a concerted effort to woo younger audiences with the dance specialists Danny Rampling and Pete Tong, and the rap guru Tim Westwood. However, the new sound upset many existing listeners, 5.2 million of whom departed during the following 22 months.

Further indications that Mr Bannister's strategy is working came with figures showing that nearly 300,000 additional listeners under 24 had tuned in. Nearly half of 15- to 25-year-olds now listen to Radio 1 each week.

Radio 2's weekly audience fell by 250,000 to 8.4 million, Radios 3 and 4 held steady at 2.4 million and 8.4 million respectively, while Radio 5 Live attracted 5 million listeners, 700,000 more than the same period last year and more than any national commercial network.

Radio 1's success overshadowed a milestone achievement by commercial radio, which took more than half of radio listening hours for the first time. Justin Sampson, head of strategic planning at the Radio Advertising Bureau, said: "There is now clear blue water between commercial and BBC radio."

Advertising revenue hit an all-time high of pounds 246.3m, 25 per cent more than a year ago.

Talk Radio UK, revamped with a "new maturity" after its disastrous February launch, gained more than 500,000 listeners between March and June, making it the country's fastest-growing national commercial station.

Saturday Story, page 13

HOW THE RADIO STATIONS COMPARE

Radio audience figures for the second quarter of 1995

(second quarter 1994 in brackets)

Weekly reach Average hours Share of

% of population per head listening %

ALL BBC (including

regional stations) 59(62) 8.7(9.1) 47.9(50.3)

BBC Radio 1 23(26) 2.1(2.4) 11.7(13.3)

BBC Radio 2 18 (19) 2.2(2.3) 12.0(12.9)

BBC Radio 3 5(5) 0.2(0.2) 1.0(1.0)

BBC Radio 4 18(18) 1.9(1.9) 10.4(10.4)

BBC Radio 5 Live 11(9) 0.5(0.4) 2.9(2.1)

ALL COMMERCIAL 61(59) 9.1(8.6) 50.1(47.4)

Classic FM 10(10) 0.5(0.5) 2.9(2.8)

Talk Radio UK 4 0.3 1.4

Virgin Radio 7(7) 0.6(0.6) 3.2(3.2)

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