RTÉ holds dominance of airwaves

RTÉ maintained its dominance of the national airwaves during 2009 according to the latest Joint National Listenership Research results, although its pop station 2FM continues to lose audiences.

However, all RTÉ Radio 1’s top presenters recorded some of the biggest year-on-year gains of recent years across its daytime and weekend schedules.

Ryan Tubridy, turned in one of the most impressive performances with the Late Late Show presenter gaining 48,000 listeners for his weekday radio show over the past 12 months to reach an average audience of 363,000 – an annual increase in excess of 15%.

Pat Kenny also grew his listener base by 11% – up 34,000 to 339,000, while Ronan Collins’ midday show attracted 25,000 new listeners to reach 230,000 – up 12%.

Marian Finucane continued to record strong audience figures for her two weekend programmes with her Sunday show gaining 40,000 new fans to reach a total audience of 337,000. Her Saturday show also grew by more than 7% to an average of 381,000 listeners.

RTÉ’s managing director of radio, Claire Duignan, said Radio 1’s average weekday reach had exceeded 900,000 for the first time in many years. She also expressed satisfaction that the JNLR figures indicated that changes to the station’s evening time schedule with new sport, arts and music programming were being welcomed by radio listeners.

However, the strong performance by Radio 1’s main broadcasters during 2009, masked a slight fall in the final quarter among listeners to current affairs programmes including Morning Ireland, News at One and Drivetime.

In contrast, 2FM continues to suffer a fall-off in listeners with Gerry Ryan’s show the station’s only programme to break into the Top 20 broadcasts in the Republic.

Although Ryan has seen a 3.2% fall-off in listenership during 2009, his audience rose slightly in the last quarter with an average figure of 307,000 – down from 317,000 at the start of the year.

The station’s morning show presenters, Colm and Jim Jim lost almost 40,000 listeners as their audience fell by 19% to 157,000.

2FM’s main national rival, Today FM, fared little better as the independent station saw two of its best-known presenters, Ian Dempsey and Matt Cooper suffer double-digit declines in their listenership figures, while the station’s most popular show hosted by Ray D’Arcy also recorded a 2.5% reduction in listeners – down 10,000 to 236,000.

Today FM presenter Ray Foley bucked the trend, growing his audience by almost 2% during 2009 to 168,000, although he lost 7,000 listeners in the last quarter.

The station’s chief executive officer, Willie O’Reilly, said some of the fall-off in listeners was due to a reduction in the number of people commuting to work. However, he expressed satisfaction that Today FM remained the most popular station among 20-44 year-olds.

Newstalk 106-108FM turned in a good performance with its overall number of daily listeners increasing by 16% over the past year – up 38,000 to 268,000.

The station’s drivetime show hosted by George Hook recorded an annual increase of 27% – up 26,000 to an all-time high of 121,000.

Eamon Keane’s lunchtime programme also increased listenership by 15% over the past 12 months, although it has not grown its audience of 68,000 over the past three months.

The Breakfast Show hosted by Claire Byrne and Ivan Yates suffered a slight drop in audiences over the last quarter, although their show has boosted its listenership by 13% in the past 12 months. Newstalk’s chief executive, Frank Cronin, noted the latest JNLR figures showed the station had made strong gains in regions outside of Dublin.

Overall, all the main national stations including Lyric FM maintained their existing audience reach with the sole exception of 2FM which fell by 1%.

Donegal’s Highland Radio remains the most popular local radio station in the country with more than 65% of its market share.

The multi-city station 4FM, which came on air last February, is struggling to gain listeners in a highly competitive market – attracting a market share of just 1.4%.

In Dublin, FM104 remains the capital’s favourite station ahead of 98FM and Q102.

In Cork, 96FM and Red FM showed no major changes to existing audience figures.

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