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Radio amnesty fails to lift DAB

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The radio audience ratings service RAJAR has published the first full quarter of figures since the launch of a DAB trade-in scheme called 'Radio Amnesty', fronted by ubiquitous luvvie Stephen Fry. The aim was to induce households to exchange their FM radios for a DAB radio. The result? DAB's share of digital listening has fallen for the first time.

The figures tell quite a subtle story. Let's look at the annual growth trend first.

Radio listening is at an all-time record high. DAB is up 20.8 per cent year on year; but listening to the radio via telly and the internet grew faster than listening on a DAB receiver. Year on year, the digital slice of the pie grew from 21.1 per cent of listening hours in Q3 2009 to 24.8 per cent from June to September. The target set by the previous government, and adopted by the current coalition government, is 50 per cent by 2015. The rate of growth still suggests this will not be achieved in time, as we suggested back in August.

Now for the quarterly change. The promotion ran for a month and ended on 26 June. RAJAR's quarter began on 1 July - and ought to have reflected an audience uptick. Despite the promotion, however, DAB listener hours remained exactly where they were in Q2, at 162 million. So the plummy tones of Fry appear have been overshadowed by other factors, such as wider adoption of the BBC's iPlayer, or people enjoying radio through their spanking new TVs, bought for the World Cup.

There may be other reasons why the promotion didn't reflect in an audience uptake. Perhaps the discounts were not attractive enough. Perhaps it didn't receive enough retail support - DSG's Dixons and Currys outlets declined to participate. Or maybe they should have hired Hugh Grant.

You'd think the radio industry should be celebrating: the appetite for radio is tremendous, and people are seeking out new media devices with which to hear it. The fact that people are listening to radio on a TV should be particularly welcome, since it's a linear format, where advert-skipping isn't possible. But the radio industry has yoked its fortunes to DAB.

More from RAJAR here. ®

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