BBC admits share of radio listeners will fall

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The Independent Online
THE BBC's share of radio listening will probably fall below 50 per cent this year for the first time because of mounting pressure from the commercial sector, Liz Forgan, managing director of BBC Radio, said yesterday.

In her first major speech on the future of the BBC's five networks and local radio chain, she told the annual Radio Academy Festival in Birmingham that the BBC losses were 'the result of the competitive market, not a failure of BBC programme-makers. To accept that is not defeatism but realism'.

This is the first time the BBC has publicly accepted that commercial radio would overtake public-service broadcasting radio this year.

The audience figures for the first three months of 1994 showed that the BBC's audience share was 52.3 per cent compared with 45.1 per cent for commercial radio; other small stations accounted for 2.6 per cent.

Ms Forgan admitted that the past year had 'seen more change than is desirable at BBC Radio. It is a change that has been bruising'.

A major factor in the BBC's loss of audience has been the changes to Radio 1, where regular listeners have fallen from 17 million to 13 million in a year.

The festival, with an audience of about 400 people, was told by Ms Forgan that the sudden changes at Radio 1, which began last autumn, were not ideal but evolution was not an option because audiences had been declining for 10 years.

She also defended Anderson Country as 'an adventurous attempt to bring new voices' to Radio 4, but accepted that it needed improvements. She condemned the 'violent, continuous and unmerciful onslaught' the weekday afternoon programme had provoked.

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