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Craving current affairs, radio listeners flock to Morning Ireland and Miriam as 2FM falters

Today FM sees strong gains across its entire week-day schedule.

Image: Sam Boal

MIRIAM O’CALLAGHAN’S Sunday morning slot on RTÉ Radio 1 and the station’s flagship Morning Ireland programme have added a combined 144,000 listeners in the past 12 months, according to the latest JNLR listenership figures.

Overall, Radio 1′s share of the Irish radio market has grown from 22.6% to 24.1% in the past year, with listeners flocking to current affairs programming during the pandemic.

Results at its music-heavy sister station, 2FM, were less positive across the board with listeners switching the dial to more news-oriented fare.

Meanwhile, programmers at Today FM will be celebrating after gaining listeners across its weekday schedule.

Radio listening throughout the market was down before 8am, but up after 8am, according to the latest research.

Mid-morning shows like Today FM’s Dermot and Dave and The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio One were some of the biggest beneficiaries of this trend, adding 19,000 and 47,00 listeners respectively.

RTÉ Radio One

Ireland’s most listened-to radio programme Morning Ireland has grown its audience to a whopping 491,000 listeners, an increase of 62,000 since September 2019.

It might be too early to say whether a new line-up has helped, however, with former Drivetime host Mary Wilson joining the team recently alongside Áine Lawlor, who left her long-time News at 1 gig.

Miriam O’Callaghan was the station’s biggest winner over the period, adding 82,000 to her audience. This took the number of people who tune into her Sunday morning offering to 318,000.

Another success story is the station’s mid-morning Today show, which had three presenters over the survey period – Sean O’Rourke, Sarah McInerney and most recently, Claire Byrne.

It now enjoys an audience of 369,000, up 54,000 year-on-year.

Liveline also had a positive 12 months, with an extra 41,000 listeners tuning into Joe Duffy every day — bringing its audience to 401,000.

RTÉ programmers believe that discussions on lighter topics like the sex scenes in Normal People coupled with more standard Liveline fare like the Leaving Cert debacle have helped to increase the show’s reach with a younger audience.

“We’re privileged to be trusted by so many in these different times. Thanks to the team, listeners, and our callers,” said Duffy.

Peter Woods, head of RTÉ Radio 1, said that the station’s success has something to do with listeners wanting to tune into trusted sources during a time of national crisis.

“People come to us as a trusted source of information around the country. That’s a good position to be in.

“But also, we’ve made changes and we’d like to think it’s the excellence of our programming,” he says.

2FM

With listeners flipping over to news programming, 2FM had a tough time of it over the past 12 months.

DJ Jenny Greene’s afternoon show pulled in 113,00 weekly listeners over the period, down 26,000 while the station’s weekday breakfast show, hosted by Doireann Garrihy and Eoghan McDermott lost 9,000 listeners.

Jennifer Zamparelli, who took over the famous Gerry Ryan slot, held up relatively well, losing just 4,000 listeners taking her total audience to 152,000.

Tracy Clifford’s music programme lost 12,000 listeners, going from 142,000 to 130,000.

John Healy, head of 2FM, says that when schools were shuttered in March, it meant fewer people turning on the radio in the mornings on their commute.

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While he was prepared to leach some listeners to Radio 1 at a time of crisis when people want to keep up with all the latest developments, he says it’s a pity that there’s no JNLR survey this quarter.

“Kids are back travelling to schools and colleges. They’re all back but there’s no JNLR survey to measure them,” he says.

“But from a 2FM perspective, we’re just delighted with what’s going on with Radio 1 because we really admire their production process.”

Today FM

By contrast, programmers at the Communicorp-owned Today FM will be very pleased with the station’s performance over the survey period.

Overall, Today FM enjoyed its highest market share in five years at 7.8% and a weekly listenership of 877,000 — 100,000 more than nearest competitor 2FM.

Fergal D’Arcy’s mid-afternoon music programme bucked trends observed at 2FM, adding 22,000 listeners over the course of the survey period — the biggest increase of any Today FM show. 

Ed Smith’s National Anthems, another music programme, also increased its listenership to 27,000, up 4,000.

Ian Dempsey’s breakfast show meanwhile hit 179,000 listeners, adding 2,000 over the 12 month period.

But biggest winners for the station were Dermot Whelan and Dave Moore whose eponymous mid-morning offering hit 183,000 listeners, which was an increase of 19,000.

Commenting on the figures, Whelan said, “We’re so delighted with these JNLR figures.

“I feel very fortunate to be in a position to connect with so many Irish people on Today FM each day. 2020 has not been easy for a lot of people and radio has proven to be a place where our listeners can find a much-needed sense of community and reassurance.”

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