The RAJAR figures out earlier this month should have given radio stations in the Channel Islands a reason to be optimistic.
Commercial station Channel 103 recorded its highest listener figures ever, with a weekly reach of 59% - the highest of any local radio station in the UK – whilst Island FM also achieved healthy figures, with a weekly reach of 49%.
Meanwhile, BBC Radio Jersey and Guernsey figures were up on the previous year. BBC Radio Guernsey was listened to by a record 24,000 people, with a weekly reach of 45% – the highest local BBC station in the country. BBC Radio Jersey’s audience figures were also up year on year by over 7%, increasing its market share to around 23%.
The signs are that people in the Channel Islands are tuning in increasingly to their local radio stations for news and local information.
These are useful statistics, particularly against the backdrop of the BBC Trust's recent decision to order the BBC to re-examine its plans to make local radio cuts. The BBC Trust’s chairman Lord Patten said: “Local and regional services…provide something unique for audiences that can otherwise be neglected by eh mainstream media”.
Compare this with Janet Street Porter's berating of local BBC content in The Independent (29thJanuary). “Local bulletins are necessary only twice a day in drivetime,” she wrote, adding: “The current local regions are so large as to be pointless.” Perhaps the Channel Islands, though, might be a special case?
Despite Street Porter's comments, local radio can be a hugely valuable media, and PR professionals should be aware of that. Businesses can often become obsessed with seeing their name in print in regional press, but radio has the advantage of being able to update its locally focused news in a timely fashion, as it develops.
At the same time, it is important that local radio stations continue to evolve to reflect the interests of their listenership. I often think, for example that, given the prevalence of the finance industry in Jersey and Guernsey, there is scope to produce some excellent business-specific programming on local radio. In the Isle of Man, Manx Radio has been doing this for some time with, in my opinion, great success.
Meanwhile, spare a thought for Manx Radio. It was reported recently that it is facing a cut in its government subsidy and consequently the need to axe jobs. It will be interesting to see how these cuts impact its listenership – it currently enjoys a healthy 58% listener share.