Britain's Old Faithful in Yet Another RAJAR Eruption

28 January 2004

One of most popular US tourist attractions is Yellowstone Park's Old Faithful Geyser -- guaranteed to produce a spout of hot air and water at almost hourly intervals.

UK tourist agency VisitBritain need not fret. Albion also boasts a comparable attraction, albeit spelled the British way -- geezer -- aka Kelvin MacKenzie, erstwhile editor of Rupert Murdoch's best-selling tabloid The Sun, and now chairman of the tycoon's UK radio interests, The Wireless Group.

MacKenzie, not famed for his even temperament, is, like Old Faithful, prone to deliver spectacular hot, aerated gushes on demand. Not least when asked by journalists to comment on UK audience measurement body RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research).

According to RAJAR's monthly listening data, the output of TWG's flagship station TalkSport registers little more than a blip on the chart. A fact that causes MacKenzie repeatedly to attack the methodology by which the data is produced.

He is certainly not alone in believing that the system -- a paper-based diary dependent on accurate recall by panel members -- is out of the ark and in dire need of update.

RAJAR itself concedes this, and last year ran an £800,000 ($1.45m; €1.16m) pilot scheme to test two types of electronic meter. However, it opted not to use either because of concerns about consistency. A second test of two other systems is scheduled for this summer.

But MacKenzie accuses RAJAR of dragging its feet over the new technology while TalkSport and other minor stations suffer from allegedly flawed data. For several months he has been loudly threatening -- but not instigating -- legal action against the industry body.

RAJAR said Monday it acknowledged "the very real possibility" of adopting an electronic measurement system. However, having just extended its existing research contract to December 2005, the earliest a new system could be up and running would be 2006.

At which the geezer again erupted. "I do not believe that RAJAR has any intention of ever introducing a technology unless it is ordered to do so by a judge," fumed MacKenzie to The Guardian newspaper.

A second jet of verbosity reprised the threat of legal action, warning that TWG would seek "substantial" damages "for the manner in which [RAJAR] has failed to introduce technology to carry out audience research".

Continued the geezer: "Commercial radio companies who talk longingly about all things digital speak out of the other side of their mouths when it comes to introducing a technology which will supply advertisers with the true nature of a station's audience."

Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big Yellowstone geysers. Its average interval between eruptions is about 91 minutes; an eruption lasts 1.5 to 5 minutes, expels 14,000 to 32,000 litres of boiling water and reaches heights of 30 to 55 meters.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff