The latest audience figures reveal the scale of the challenge facing Wales’ solitary national English-language radio station, and its controversial Editor.
In the last quarter of 2023, RAJARs show that the average hours each listener tuned in to BBC Radio Wales (RW) was only 8.8, with the share of listening in the area at just 5.3 per cent. ‘Reach’ (the total number of listeners per week) was merely 316,000, while the percentage was only 12.
He hosted the lunchtime programme, Wales at One, the drive-time show Good Evening Wales, as well as the weekly debate series People’s Assembly, and was aghast: “These figures are truly shocking”, he said.
He added: “clearly they are doing something VERY wrong. Why are the audience statistics in other areas so much better?!”.
The present RW Editor has also hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Previous abysmal figures came out as Carolyn Hitt assumed her unenviable position as its head, and outraged listeners, said the output was “inane” and a “self-parody”.
Another critic made the point about the interesting timing, and said about those appalling audience figures: “(They) coincided exactly with the new Radio Wales editor (and ex Western Mail columnist) Carolyn Hitt sitting in the editors seat after taking over…”.
Perhaps emphasising the recent difficulties, headline-grabbing ‘Director of Content and Services’ Rhuanedd Richards, had earlier described the then new ‘Editor of BBC Radio Wales and Sport’, Ms Hitt, as a “brilliant addition to the team”.
But in the eulogy to her she failed to mention that homosexuality is unlawful in the host nation of the football World Cup , Qatar, where Wales qualified, and Ms Hitt transmitted match details on RW.
Being gay carries a punishment of up to three years in prison there, as well as earning the possibility of the death penalty for Muslims under sharia law. Also conspicuous by its absence in Ms Richards’ praising speech, was that Ms Hitt has also said on Twitter (now X) that she votes for the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC), and is prepared to “pick up the ball” for independence, when the news service she is overseeing is meant to be neutral.
Ms Hitt is herself gay, which may have made it difficult monitoring coverage of matches there.
As well as following a record-breaking low, the RAJARs also revealed that almost 95 percent of the available audience in Wales do not listen to it at all.
Past years have been almost as bad for RW.
In 2020 the equivalent figures revealed a slight increase on the previous year, but a substantial drop compared with two years earlier, a massive decrease on the year before that, and how more than 40,000 listeners had been lost in one three month period, despite the cash spent on new schedules.
They also showed that the total listening hours were 2,667,000, down from 3,074,000 in September 2019 (although up from 2,147,000 in December 2018).
A former RW executive, said at the time a previous quarter’s atrocious listening figures were released: “It’s (the audience numbers are) peaking at weekdays mid mornings, with Wynne Evans the only highlight. There’s an over reliance on celebrities who have little or no substance, and the breakfast programme is a disgrace”.
One of the main presenters at RW during its launch, re-stated his call for the people in charge to resign. Mike Flynn told The Eye: “I would like to know what the real figures are across daytimes and weekends and how they waste over £18 million. It is about time they started to answer a few questions.”
It is clear that time may be running out for RW, if the latest audience figures are anything to go by…
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