RTE rapped for 'outrageous' 2fm JNLR claims
Today FM complaint forces Montrose bosses into U-turn on morning listenership figures
State broadcaster RTE has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after its entertainment news website incorrectly reported that the listenership for 2fm's Breakfast Republic and Nicky Byrne shows had made "strong gains" compared with last year.
The claim made in an article last Thursday failed to take account of the fact that the latest Joint National Listenership Research (JNLR) figures for both programmes only cover the one-month period from September to October of this year. Given that fact, no direct comparison can be made between their listenership numbers and those from last year when Ryan Tubridy anchored the station's main morning show.
Montrose chiefs moved to correct the mistake following a strongly worded complaint from Today FM CEO Peter McPartlin to the JNLR's technical committee last Friday morning.
In his letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Sunday Independent, Mr McPartlin accused RTE of committing a "flagrant breach of the rules around the promotion of the JNLR figures by RTE and in particular, 2fm".
He alleged the State broadcaster had "ignored the protocol" on listenership comparisons and made what he described as "some outrageous claims on their performance across their two morning shows" in press releases on their own website and to the media community at large.
The Today FM chief said the most blatant claim had been made on the RTE Ten website, in a story carrying the headline: '2fm makes strong gains in new JNLR survey.'
Having considered the Today FM chief's complaint last Friday, the JNLR's technical committee ruled the broadcaster's reporting of the listenership numbers had breached the JNLR's procedures and standards. Having been informed of this, RTE moved to amend its original news report on the RTE Ten website immediately.
Asked for comment on the matter, a spokesman for RTE said: "An error was made regarding indirect JNLR comparisons by RTÉ Ten in an online article which has now been corrected."
Elsewhere in his complaint to the JNLR, Mr McPartlin claimed RTE sales personnel had "effectively misrepresented the data for 'Breakfast Republic' by placing it in the Top 20 radio shows in the country".
He said he had already highlighted the potential for misrepresentation of the JNLR figures with IPSOS/MRBI, the agency responsible for compiling the statistics, the previous day after he became aware that the latest report would reflect amendments in the broadcast times for Breakfast Republic and the Nicky Byrne Show, arising from Ryan Tubridy's move back to RTE Radio 1.
Following those changes, the Breakfast Republic show now airs from 6am to 10am, as opposed to its previous finishing time of 8.45am, while the Nicky Byrne Show has had its broadcast time of 11am to 2pm changed to 10am to 1pm. With both programmes only in place for just over a month, the Today FM CEO insisted the latest listenership figures "for the most part, relate to the Ryan Tubridy Show".
According to the latest JNLR figures which cover what is termed as 'timeblock reach', the 6am to 10am slot covered by Breakfast Republic commands a listenership of 196,000 among those aged 15 and over.
While Mr McPartlin took issue with RTE's promotion to advertising agencies of Breakfast Republic as the 17th most popular national radio programme on foot of those listenership numbers, Head of RTE 2fm Dan Healy strongly defended the broadcaster's actions.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday, he said: "The figure of 196,000 [listeners] relates to the time block only. You could put on Mickey Mouse FM between 6am and 10am. We stand over the fact that Breakfast Republic is in the Top 20 and IPSOS/MRBI are not asking us to correct or change anything."
Mr Healy said RTE's erroneous reporting of the JNLR figures was the only matter raised with the broadcaster by the JNLR's technical committee.
He added: "I think Peter's real issue is with the 6 to 10 block. Ian Dempsey is on from 7 to 9 and he has lost listeners and Anton Savage isn't making an impact. Peter is doing his job by questioning the figures. But we were clear in saying that this 'book' [survey] relates to one month's set of figures.
"We will get a bump in the next figures. We know that's going to happen. This time next year we'll be able to reflect on how 2fm is going."