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Traffic Radio hits back at bad press

Traffic Radio says online listening to the station has gone up 350 percent in 12 months. The station's responded to tabloid claims that the service is a wasting £2.8m a year of taxpayers' money.

The story, in the [link=http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1313281/2-8m-tax-wasted-traffic-radio-hear.html?ito=feeds-newsxml]Daily Mail[/link] this weekend, reported that Traffic Radio's cost the taxpayer almost £10.4m in five years, but says fewer than 500,000 of the UK's 32 million vehicles have DAB radios to receive it.

The Taxpayers' Alliance called for the service to be scrapped, saying it's something already provided by local radio stations so shouldn't be state-funded. The RAC joined the criticism too, adding that people can get the information online from websites such as their own.

Traffic Radio is managed and produced for the Highways Agency by Global Traffic Network (GTN) and is broadcast on 31 local DAB multiplexes, as well as on a long-term RSL on medium wave around the NEC in Birmingham.

A spokesman for Traffic Radio told RadioToday.co.uk that listening numbers are up. "Because people tune in for instant traffic updates and listen for less than 15 minutes at a time, standard industry audience figures are not available," he said. "But we measure online listening and this has increased by 350 percent over the last 12 months. And listening to Traffic Radio increased almost ten-fold at the time of 2009 severe winter weather."

As well as being available on DAB, Traffic Radio streams online and through an iPhone application. The station say they promote the service primarily as a pre-journey planning tool, rather than something to have on all the time during a journey.

The spokesman added: "In-car DAB listening is only one consideration. We encourage people to plan their journeys before they set off and to get updates whenever they stop for breaks on long journeys."

So what for the future of Traffic Radio? Well, it seems it may not escape the multi-billion pound spending review currently going on at Whitehall, and could be scaled back in some way as ministers make sure every penny is spent efficiently.

Roads Minister Mike Penning said: "Given the financial crisis this country faces it is vital that we ensure every pound is spent wisely. We will be looking at this service closely to make sure that taxpayers’ money is being spent in a cost effective way."

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