Belfast Telegraph

Who's top jock on Northern Ireland radio?

By Lesley-Anne Henry

In the battle for the Northern Ireland airwaves, everyone claims to be a winner.

But, despite public boasts from some radio personalities, establishing exactly who hosts the biggest show in the country has been a struggle.

Figures from the audience measurement body Rajar (Radio Joint Audio Research) were released yesterday. However, only the topline weekly-reach statistics for stations such Radio Ulster, Cool FM, Downtown, U105, Citybeat and the Northern Media Group which runs smaller services like FiveFM, Seven FM and Q102, were made available.

And, despite being publicly funded, BBC bosses were reluctant to give out the audience numbers for individual shows like The Nolan Show, Good Morning Ulster and Talkback. Indeed, it was only after intense pressure from the Belfast Telegraph and on-air self-congratulations by Stephen Nolan that the Beeb finally revealed just how many people tune in to their peak time shows.

Few were surprised when Stephen Nolan topped the poll with an average weekly audience of 138,000.

The flagship Good Morning Ulster was second with 104,000 listeners a week.

Although Radio Ulster has seen a 59,000 increase year-on-year it failed to confirm if the number of listeners for each show was up or down.

A statement said: "BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle remains the number one listened to radio station in Northern Ireland with an average weekly audience of 591,000 listeners tuning in each week."

According to Rajar, commercial sister stations Cool FM and Downtown now account for 45% of the adult listening population with a combined reach of 648,000.

North-Down based Cool has reached a record high with 410,000 weekly listeners while Downtown has also recorded its highest audience figures in six years with 295,000, up 38,000 compared to this time last year.

Managing director Mark Mahaffy said: "The numbers released are a great news story for radio in general, but particularly for our leading stations with the news that we are now listened to weekly by almost one out of every two adults in Northern Ireland.

"This is welcome news no doubt to our advertisers but maybe no surprise to our growing army of listeners."

Meanwhile, only 234,000 tuned in to U105, but this figure reflects a 59% jump.

Peter McVerry, U105 station manager, said: "These are superb results and U105 just keeps on getting bigger and bigger, our last rating in May was a superb 193,000, so this result is another tremendous boost for the team."

A spokeswoman for Rajar said it was only permitted to release figures for individual shows in the London area.

She said because stations "pay" for the research Rajar was prevented from releasing anything other than "topline" statistics in other regions - including here.

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