Radio1 stems listener decline

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The Independent Online
The ratings decline which has seen Radio1 lose more than 4 million listeners in a year looks to be levelling off, according to official research released yesterday.

Figures published by Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) showed that the network's audience slipped by 200,000 listeners in the final three months of last year, a dramatic improvement on average quarterly losses of more than 1 million during the previous year.

Overall, BBC Radio attracted an additional 180,000 listeners across all its networks, with the major gains going to Radio5-Live. Launched amid a tide of industry scepticism last March, 5-Live added a further 360,000 listeners in the final quarter of 1994, taking its weekly reach to 4.76 million. It means the network is attracting 52 per cent more listeners than its predecessor Radio5, while its weekly audience has now overtaken the three national commercial stations - Classic FM, Virgin 1215 and Atlantic 252.

The figures will come as some relief to the corporation, which has found itself under pressure during the past few weeks following the resignation of Steve Wright from Radio1 and the axing of Anderson Country from Radio4.

Although it is too early to talk about a complete vindication of the strategy introduced in autumn 1993 by Matthew Bannister, controller of Radio1, which led to younger DJs, more live music and speech, Sue Farr, BBC Radio's head of marketing, said the situation was at least "stabilising".

It was, by contrast, a disappointing quarter for commercial radio, despite the launch of five new "super" regional stations, including JFM in Manchester and Heart FM in Birmingham. Predictions that it would pass the 50 per cent threshold proved optimistic as commercial radio's share of listening held firm at 49 per cent. The BBC, overtaken last autumn for the first time, was static at 48 per cent.

Talk of the trade, page 22