The networked Mark Forrest show has shed nearly half a million listeners since it went on air on the BBC’s English local radio stations in January last year, an analysis of the latest RAJAR figures by RadioToday has found.
The figures released last week, which cover the period April to June 2014, are the lowest for the Monday to Friday evening show since the current audience research methodology began in June 2007.
Forrest’s weekday evening programme now reaches 1,166k listeners each week – compared to 1,607k in the first quarter of 2013. The show’s share of listening fell to 4.6% from 6.2% over the same period. At its peak, the time-slot had nearly 2 million listeners and a share of 7.4%.
The show is broadcast on all 39 BBC local radio stations across England from BBC Radio Leeds, and replaced local evening shows as part of “Delivering Quality First”, which sought to cut £8m from the £115m local radio budget.
At the launch of the programme last year, David Holdsworth, Controller, BBC English Regions, said “We’re very excited by the potential of this programme which will bring together a wide range of voices from across BBC local radio. Expect a mix of great story telling, focussing on people and places, and debates on the issues that really matter to local communities, wherever they are.”
However, the new show quickly ran into opposition, both from presenters whose local shows were scrapped, and from angry listeners, who started a petition against the changes which gained thousands of signatures.
Several BBC local radio stations reported significant overall falls in their audience in the latest RAJAR data release. BBC Radios Bristol, Merseyside, Somerset and Three Counties Radio each lost more than 30% of their total hours listened year-on-year.
A BBC spokesperson told RadioToday: “It should be pointed out that we only have figures for the 19.00-22.00 slot, which also includes news and sport, we are not able to produce figures just for the Mark Forrest show.
“The slot has performed in line with BBC Local Radio in England as a whole on the quarter and the figures are statistically stable on the year both in terms of reach and share. The data is most useful if you look at performance over time so we will continue to monitor the figures carefully.”
The show is made by Wire Free Productions, founded in 2012 by the former BBC Executives Matthew Bannister and Husain Husaini.