The quarterly Rajar results were revealed last month and the four major competitors in the Central Belt showed some unsurprising results. Whilst Real Radio continues to make headway, Radio Clyde was slightly down whilst Beat 106 and Forth had made a slight gain.
So, what is happening in the Central Belt at the moment? Music changes are happening. The evolution of Real from the now defunct Scot FM has shown that a strong programming schedule, along with the right marketing mix, can have a strong impact. Changes abound for both Forth and Beat – Edinburgh-based Forth has recently appointed Nik Goodman as Programme Controller – he will now look after both Forth 1 and Forth 2; Beat 106 has launched changes to its flagship dance music schedule following a downward trend in the dance market. It would appear that Clyde is the only station sticking to its tried and tested formula.
Like different parts of the media, radio stations appear to be suffering at the moment, but many aren’t keen to change the way that the Rajar results are conducted. Ross McFadgen, Programme Controller at Clyde, is positive about its results: “We are very pleased with the figures. Clyde 1 remains stable once more and, in fact, Clyde 2 has increased its listeners. In the past 5 to10 years there have been a number of different players entering the area that we cover, but we still manage to outperform them all in terms of our results.”
Jay Crawford, Programme Controller at Real Radio, is encouraged by its gain the second time round. Since launching at the beginning of the year, the station has managed to gain an extra 2 per cent rise in the weekly reach within the Central Belt. “In all my experience of working in the radio industry, I have never felt that people are truly passionate and committed as they are to the Real Radio brand. The results for us are great and I think that the reason for this is that we got the format of the station right straight away.”
Whilst Real and Clyde like to sing their results from the rooftops, both Forth and Beat appear to have been plugging away making changes to their station, planning new stages in the programming schedule and trying to implement them without too much fanfare.
Managing Director of Beat 106, Hugh Murray, remains positive that Beat is achieving the figures it needs: “To all intents and purposes, Beat remains stable. Beat tracks its audience weekly and we know what the audiences like and dislike about the station’s music policy.”
Murray does, however, point out that Beat is the only station that really has to change the programming of the station to suit the differing tastes of the audience that it appeals to. “At the moment there is a downturn in the need for very heavy dance music. The changes that we have made since the start of this month reflect this. We have always admitted that the station will always need to evolve, and I think it keeps the station sounding fresh.”
Radio Forth is also making changes with its programmes, recognising the need to change some aspects of the current musical trends to suit the listeners and to attract newcomers to the station. Both new Programme Controller Nick Goodman, along with Travis Baxter, a Programming Adviser who formerly worked with Atlantic 252 and now works two days a week with the station, aim to make changes to the station and to attract more listeners. “We were in a period of not really growing,” admits Marketing Manager Camille Craig. “But we are now taking a new and fresh approach to the format of the station and, even though we only started to make some very minor changes from about July onwards, we are starting to notice a change in the station, and our listeners are too. More is to come by the start of next year, but I wouldn’t say that the station would change dramatically from the way it is sounding just now. There will just be one or two things altered.”
The method of Rajar has come up for criticism by the Wireless Group’s Kelvin MacKenzie in recent months. Yet the conclusion from the four major stations within the Central Belt is that any of the ways used to measure the audience levels will have their flaws. As McFadgen says: “There is always going to be some sort of criticism regarding the way that the figures are found. I think Kelvin is calling for a different way, as it will benefit his station. Every method has its flaws and each one could be picked on for specific reasons.”
Murray, however, claims that the results that Rajar has produced for his station are not representative of the people who are listening. “We don’t use Rajar as a barometer for events. I think it is inaccurate with our target audience, because how many 15-34-year-olds are actually going to take the time and sit down and mark up on a diary what they have been listening to? They will fill it in when they remember to. We are the only station in Scotland who actually perform tracking and find out what our listeners want to hear on the radio. That to us is a more accurate and precise way of measuring it.”
Radio Clyde, however, is still the outright leader in terms of coverage in the West of Scotland. “What makes us good at what we do is the fact that we have loyal listeners who want to hear what is happening locally. Some might call it ‘parochial’ but I think that it is a good thing,” says McFadden. “We are in the business of entertaining our listeners with DJs who talk direct to the listeners. Our promotions are always well received and I think that what we do is something to be very proud of.”
“There are so many stations about now compared to when we started,” adds Planning Manager Craig McVittie. “Loyalty is a very easy thing to lose, but it is very hard to achieve. We have a loyal audience who enjoy what we do and I think that is the most important thing above all.”