Wednesday 17 July 2019

'There were apocalyptic suggestions we would lose 100,000 listeners - it never happened' - Sean O'Rourke

RTE’s Sean O’Rourke
RTE’s Sean O’Rourke
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Sean O'Rourke is celebrating a boost in listenership for his RTE Radio 1 late morning show, but admits he does not "take anything for granted".

The latest figures in the JNLR/Ipsos MRBGI report into radio listening in Ireland, published on Thursday, reveal the programme gained 10,000 listeners from July to September to reach an impressive audience of 371,000.

It bucked the trend for weekday news-led programmes, most of which suffered losses, apart from Newstalk's Ivan Yates, who gained 4,000 new listeners in the same period for his early evening programme, The Hard Shoulder.

O'Rourke took a two month break from broadcasting in July and August, during which time the slot was helmed by Miriam O'Callaghan, whose own weekend show gained 8,000 for the same period.

Speaking to about the results, O'Rourke said he was "not surprised" by the increase for the show.

"You just don’t know. Sometimes it’s down a bit and then it goes up, but we’re going in the right direction," he said.

"I’m not surprised the numbers have gone up because I know the programme is really good and it was really good when I was away.  The common element, whether it’s me or Miriam, is a really good team with a really good producer, Tara Campbell.  They don’t miss anything."

The broadcaster has fronted the programme since 2013 when he took over from Pat Kenny who left RTE after 41 years to join Newstalk.

Their shows both air on weekday mornings, although not at the same time.  The listenership for O'Rourke's show is 317,000 while Kenny's currently stands at 149,000.

"You get new figures every three months so I suppose we just go in every day trying to make the best possible programme we can.  Every day is a fresh challenge and it’s been going really well," he says.

"I’ll put it like this, I think we have pretty much the same kind of numbers now as when I started.  There were all these apocalyptic suggestions being made that we were going to lose 100,000 [listeners].  It didn’t happen.  It’s really the fact it’s Radio 1.  It’s not my programme or Miriam’s programme – it’s RTE’s programme."

Speaking about the competition on rival stations, he said they "keep an eye".

"We take nothing for granted," he said.  "I know a lot of good people out there as well want to take our audience and it puts it up to us to just keep on top of things.  We wouldn’t want to be complacent and we’re not."

The presenter's two month break from broadcasting the summer was the longest he had had in a decade. 

"I certainly felt invigorated by it," he said.  "It did me a lot of good."

Since his return eight weeks ago he has been thrust into the run up to the Presidential election, with long form interviews with each of the candidates taking place on his programme.

"I think I’ve probably done some of the best stuff that I’ve done in my entire career in the past eight weeks, certainly some of the most enjoyable," he said.  "  It’s been full on."

Miriam O'Callaghan echoed O'Rourke's sentiments about the teams and producers behind the shows when she addressed her 8,000 increase to 272,000 with the Herald on Thursday.

"I am delighted with the figures but to be honest it's really all about the teams and producers behind the presenters who work so hard," she said.

"I try not to make too much of the figures when they go up, that way you don't have to make too much of the down days."

Read more: JNLRs: RTE Radio 1’s Marian Finucane and Sean O’Rourke see highest gains as losses dominate at Today FM and Newstalk

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