As Ryan Tubridy so aptly described them, the Joint National Listenership Results (JNLRs) are like a presenters’ school report card.
Usually released every three months and based on a survey of around 16,500 respondents, they are welcomed and dreaded in equal measure by even the most seasoned of RTÉ’s broadcasters and producers.
As well as being crucial to helping devise advertising strategies for radio executives, they also give a valuable insight into the listenership habits and trends.
An Irish Independent analysis of the JNLR’s dating back to 2012 has revealed that Liveline with Joe Duffy has shed nearly 100,000 listeners over the past decade. Whereas it once used to rival Morning Ireland for pulling in the big figures, its most recent figure from July 2022 showed 332,000 listeners, compared with 428,000 in July 2012.
Back then, it was the second most-popular programme in the country after Morning Ireland. Now it stands at number 10 on the list.
In what could be indicative of an overall slump in afternoon listenership, Ray D’Arcy’s 3pm slot has dropped to under 200,000 for the first time ever, going down to 197,000 last month, having peaked during the pandemic at 242,000.
D’Arcy took over the slot from Derek Mooney in 2015 – when it had an average of 215,000 listeners – but the slot had 232,000 in July 2012.
Another drop has hit RTÉ’s Drivetime show which starts at 4.30pm and was previously fronted by Mary Wilson. It had 259,000 listeners in 2012 while it now stands at 216,000 under the anchorage of Sarah McInerney and Cormac Ó hÉadhra.
Yet the most recent results show RTÉ Radio 1 is continuing to hold firm in the face of huge competition from commercial stations, streaming services and podcasts.
Although there have been huge challenges facing traditional media, the past decade has revealed surprisingly few fluctuations.
The Covid crisis sparked a huge surge in listenership figures for most of RTÉ’s Radio 1’s news shows in the first post-pandemic survey published in November 2020.
Lockdown meant most people were stuck at home and were devouring hard news shows like Morning Ireland, which attracted a new record high of 491,000 listeners. Joe Duffy’s Liveline went up to 404,000 while Drivetime increased to 265,000.
At the time, RTÉ Radio 1 boss Peter Woods described them as “artificially high” due to the Covid crisis but its shows are still performing well as the public’s appetite for morning news shows remains strong. Last week’s JNLR’s saw RTÉ Radio claim a 21.4pc market share, compared with 23pc in 2012.
It has also kept its flagship show Morning Ireland as the most-listened-to show in Ireland. Ten years ago, it had 444,000 listeners and a decade on, has 473,000.
John Murray’s morning slot, taken over by Ryan Tubridy in 2015 when he moved from 2fm, had 327,000 listeners in 2012 and it now has 369,000 as the Late Late Show host has developed the slot and made it his own. In fact, he has more than twice the number of listeners now on RTÉ 1 than he did 10 years ago, having taken over Gerry Ryan’s 2fm slot which in July 2012, had 175,000 listeners.
Sean O’Rourke’s mid-morning Today slot had 328,000 listeners in the July 2012 survey and despite changing hands in 2019, Claire Byrne has steadied the ship and it now has 350,000 listeners.
However, RTÉ has kept its listeners for its weekend shows, which saw Brendan O’Connor taking over from the late Marian Finucane in March 2020. She had an average audience of 341,000 for her Sunday show 10 years ago and the latest results show O’Connor had an identical figure for his two-hour slot.
Miriam O’Callaghan has grown her audience considerably in the past few years, given that she was at 271,000 back in 2012 and now has 339,000 in July 2022.
And radio’s enduring popularity with the Irish public is reflected right across the board in the regional and commercial market too.
A JNLR report last year Radio and the Audio Market found that 80pc or over three million people tune into live radio every day compared with 25pc who stream music and 7pc who listen to podcasts. Scott Williams, chair of the JNLR Committee, said “Irish people love radio.”
RTÉ did not respond to requests for comment. But a source said the station is happy with Liveline's showing. ‘”It remains an important agenda-setting programme that continues to give the ordinary person a platform.”