The first official listener figures for Scotland’s newest radio station make grim reading. Launched in February, the all-speech station, talk107, will have been hoping for at least a five per cent share of the Edinburgh, Lothians and Fife radio audience. Instead of five per cent, its first RAJAR figure is less than one per cent.
Certainly, the hoped-for phone calls have not materialised in the volume required to carry a programme along on a tide of different, passionate and intelligent voices, with the presenter or presenters requiring only a light conductor touch.
If the station chiefs are now wondering what to do next, obviously there is a need to examine the parameters of the show. If it wanted to be something like Radio Four with adverts, when it started off on St Valentine’s Day, that has certainly not been the case since.
Urbane Edinburgh, switched-on Fife and well-informed Lothians have been broadly unable to talk about issues beyond their geographical boundaries.
So, while Beirut gets bombed, the temptation is still to err towards the cops, the local council and litter on the streets.
That said, Edinburgh, Fife and the Lothians are home to some fantastic stories and issues, whether literary, golf or biotech. Or, if it takes your fancy instead, the Scottish Parliament, fishing ports and the Pentlands.
But there seems a reluctance to develop these subjects in depth (though the great attraction of the station is that there’s no need to condense every story into a soundbite), including bringing experts in. And that probably has something to do with wishing to keep costs down.
The problem would be trying to reformat while many of the targeted listenership have already made up their minds about the station – and have abandoned it. Bringing back to the fold lost listeners will probably require a promotional spend double that used to launch the station in the first place.
So, a stark choice presents itself: either stick by the current feel and format of the station, or relaunch, either big bang or softly-softly.
You have a reassuring feeling that owners, UTV, are sufficiently resourced and courageous enough to ‘do what is necessary’ to get the station on the right track.
A change of the presenter line-up was reported yesterday. Graham Stewart made way for Micky Gavin, Gavin switching from his late-night berth to Stewart’s early afternoon one. One person going doesn’t, however, a successful station make.