Belfast Telegraph

Nolan boasts of ratings rise but Beeb blasted for figures secrecy

By Cate McCurry

BBC Radio Ulster has been accused of shrouding its listening figures in secrecy - hours after presenter Stephen Nolan celebrated a rise in people tuning in to his morning show.

Despite Nolan declaring that he was "sprinting ahead" of his biggest rivals, the public has been left in the dark about the exact total.

The Beeb said it could not disclose how many are tuning in to flagship shows such as Nolan, Talkback and Good Morning Ulster.

The BBC does, however, release programme figures for some of its top stations including BBC Radio One and Radio Two. These shows feature presenters such as Chris Evans and Nick Grimshaw.

A BBC spokesman explained that ratings were released for these as they were the corporation's biggest shows.

While figures released yesterday by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audio Research) show that for the second quarter of the year BBC Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle collectively peaked at an average weekly reach of 544,000 listeners, no details were given for individual shows.

Opening his show with the theme to Chariots Of Fire, Nolan said he was "soaring ahead" in the race to host "the biggest show in the country".

"I love it when it comes to this time of year," he said. "So the official radio listening figures are out and so I want you to imagine this. I want you to imagine that I am taking part in this big race and the race is to be the biggest show in the country and all the rest of them are trying to catch up with me.

"And there I am, sprinting ahead. And they have done everything they can, they even get within miles of me and I'm soaring ahead."

Co-host Vinny Hurrell remarked: "This is where your modesty starts to come out."

Nolan went on to suggest that he is 50% ahead of his biggest competitors.

He continued: "You know the way we are not allowed to give out the radio figures, imagine if I was about 50% ahead. Can you imagine it? And they are trying to keep up and they are trying to race and they are nowhere near me. The official listening figures are out and we have gone up again.

"Did you get a call from the new head of Radio Ulster?

"He's got to be on the phone this morning, saying those figures are incredible. If you are already the biggest show in the country and it's gone up again, but I heard nothing."

Nolan added that while people would ask for the figures, they would "not get them".

"The Nolan Show - the biggest show in the country plus a little bit more," he boasted.

"I have to thank the people of Northern Ireland for listening."

TUV leader Jim Allister called for full transparency from the BBC, saying that if Nolan can "boast about his listening figures" the public broadcaster should be able to reveal them.

"The BBC can't have it both ways - they can't have a presenter boast that he's the biggest show in the country and yet sit on the figures which would confirm that," he added.

"We got some transparency on the salaries so we also need to get transparency on the uptake of listeners.

"There's a certain arrogance to the mere minions who pay their licence fee aren't entitled to know - just take their almighty word for it and be thankful you've been told that much."

A BBC spokesman said: "We want to communicate our RAJAR figures to our listeners in the most accurate and meaningful way.

"On this basis, we release station figures for BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle and do not comment upon individual show figures.

"BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle remains the most listened to radio station in Northern Ireland.

"These latest RAJAR figures show that the station received an average weekly reach of 544,000 listeners - approximately 36.2% of the population."

He added: "BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle's average weekly reach has increased 24,000 from the same period last year and 26,000 from the previous quarter."

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