Thursday, August 05, 2010

Classical listeners vote with their off button


Data released today shows that the audience for BBC Radio 3 dropped by 8.2% over the last three months from 2.025 to 1.858 million listeners to reach its smallest audience since March 2008. Average hours per listener for Radio 3 dropped over the quarter from 5.9 to 5.6 hours. Speech network BBC Radio 4 increased its audience from 10.029 to 10.403 million in the same period while Classic FM also increased its audience.

Other headlines from the data prepared by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research Limited) for the UK includes digital radio listening up 17%, digital radio ownership up 7.6m and radio listening via mobile phones remaining constant at 12.5%.

The latest RAJAR data is for the period ended June 31 2010. In April 2010 BBC Radio 3 introduced classical chart programmes into its schedules. Other reasons for the precipitous drop in the Radio 3 audience will be familiar to readers. If senior BBC management want to know why listeners, including this one, have deserted the network they need only listen to presenter Donald Macleod's crass and intrusive announcement interposed between the first and second movements of Mahler's Third Symphony at last night's Prom. When will they ever learn?


This post is available via Twitter @overgrownpath. Photo is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2010. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

6 comments:

tommy said...

Was it the content of Donald's speech between the movements that was 'crass and intrusive', or simply that he said anything at all?

Very long pauses between movements (particularly with Mahler and this symphony) can be a problem for R3 technically.

Also, do you have proof/data that the classical chart programmes have resulted in the audience downturn? I absolutely HATE the chart stuff, but I'd be interested to see whether it is actually the problem, or whether we just want it to be.

And have you 'deserted' the network or not? Seems odd to say you have and then point to a specific bit of a broadcast last night.

best,
TP

Pliable said...

Was it the content of Donald's speech between the movements that was 'crass and intrusive', or simply that he said anything at all? - both.

Very long pauses between movements (particularly with Mahler and this symphony) can be a problem for R3 technically - how come BBC Radio 3 and its previous incarnations have broadcast works like this for more than sixty years without being compelled for technical reasons to insert announcements between the movements? But then I guess Mahler was a dunce for not writing classical radio station friendly symphonies.

Also, do you have proof/data that the classical chart programmes have resulted in the audience downturn? I absolutely HATE the chart stuff, but I'd be interested to see whether it is actually the problem, or whether we just want it to be - what else of significance changed at Radio 3 during the same period? Sometimes, if it has four legs, a tail and it barks you have to assume it is a dog.

And have you 'deserted' the network or not? Seems odd to say you have and then point to a specific bit of a broadcast last night - oh yes, I have deserted the network. But I have not deserted events like the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra playing Mahler 3.

Tommy, what do YOU think is wrong with BBC Radio 3? The facts show a disastrous drop in audience not mirrored at other stations. You say you 'absolutely HATE the chart stuff'. Yet your reaction to my post is contrary.

Forget that it is me criticising BBC Radio 3 and look at the RAJAR data. The station has lost a lot of audience. Am I the only person in the UK who is prepared (dares?) to suggest reasons for this decline?

tommy said...

If you actually read my post, you might notice that I said I hated the chart stuff but was interested to know whether it really was the reason for the downturn. I see nothing contrary in that.

We can all speculate on the various reasons why R3 had a downturn this time, but I think we have to be honest and admit that we don't actually KNOW. Rajars are notoriously vague because of the way the data is collected.

I'm not defending R3 (I know one of your big themes is that anyone who's ever had anything to do with the BBC isn't allowed to have a balanced opinion); have a go at them by all means. I simply wanted to know whether it is possible to pinpoint the reasons, beyond just theory.

I did look at the Rajar data. I don't care if you criticise R3. If I have opinions on what is wrong with Radio 3, and I do, (along with opinions on what is right with it) then I'll post them on my own blog.

By the way, the Mahler 3 (and others) situation has long been a problem (I'm sure you know much more about this than I do, I can only talk from practical knowledge of being on the network). If there is going to be a long pause between movements, which has usually been planned long before the performance (some conductors like long pauses, others don't), then R3 needs to put something there or at some point things start to go wrong with the transmission. Quite apart from the problem that people tuning in only to find complete silence might wonder what on earth is going on.
On TV, I agree the silence should be left alone - since it's clear what it going on visually. But radio does have that problem. I myself have had to talk between movements of a Mahler symphony on R3 and it always feels uncomfortable. But it's usually there for a reason.

I didn't hear that bit of the broadcast last night; by then, I'd given up on what I thought was a rather stiff and dreary performance.

TP

Pliable said...

I know one of your big themes is that anyone who's ever had anything to do with the BBC isn't allowed to have a balanced opinion - actually Tommy, I joined the BBC from university in 1971. And quite a bit of space has been devoted here to the opinions of some far more talented ex-BBC people including Leo Black, John Drummond and William Glock. But, as I have made clear here before, I do have a problem with people whose opinion of the BBC is influenced by commercial links. And that includes an awful lot of people in the UK classical music industry.

I'm sure you know much more about this than I do, I can only talk from practical knowledge of being on the network - I look forward to reading your own explanation of the 8.2% BBC Radio 3 audience drop on your own blog. But as you have chosen to post comments here using an anonymous profile that will be difficult.

Pliable said...

I assume the above exchange was with the BBC Radio 3 presenter Tommy Pearson. But, of course, it is dangerous to make assumptions.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/presenters/tommy_pearson.shtml

http://onemoretake.blogspot.com/

tommy said...

Yes - the FORMER Radio 3 presenter, that's right. Not been there for nearly 5 years though.

I actually thought that signing in with my Blogger ID would mean people could see who I was. Apologies. I didn't mean to be anonymous!