MacKenzie Fails to Fulfil RAJAR Court Threat

09 January 2004

Kelvin MacKenzie, as befits the former editor of Britain's best-selling tabloid The Sun, is long on short words. Actions, however, especially of the legal variety, are in shorter supply.

Relegated these days to the role of chairman and ceo of Rupert Murdoch's radio minnow The Wireless Group, MacKenzie can only dream of the awesome career-breaking power of his glory days at the rambunctious newspaper.

Then the merest hint of a threat from Big Mac would have cabinet ministers on the line begging forgiveness for whatever transgression had sparked the editor's famously short fuse.

Now the reaction, if any, from the objects of his wrath is more akin to Macbeth's utterance: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Which appears to be the riposte of MacKenzie's current bête noir, RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research), the UK radio and advertising industry's audience measurement body.

After stalking out of negotiations with RAJAR on December 18 MacKenzie swore he would take the trade body to the High Court "by Christmas" for its tardiness in adopting a new electronic measurement procedure to replace its current paper-based methodology. In tests using an electronic 'wristwatch' system, MacKenzie's company did notably better than implied by the RAJAR data.

But two weeks and two days since the threat was uttered, RAJAR has yet to receive even a preliminary warning of legal action. Says RAJAR research director Paul Kennedy: “We have not received any contact from The Wireless Group, so far, regarding court proceedings.”

RAJAR this week announced it is to invest £500,000 ($915,062; €718,832) in new tests of electronic measurement systems during the second half of this year.

• Meantime, as if to underline its support for RAJAR's caution in adopting new technology without adequate testing, media industry forum, the Media Research Group, released the result of a membership poll on the subject.

Among the UK's top media research specialists, 63% of respondents disagreed with the motion that the industry should now adopt electronic measurement of broadcast media -- although there was a more even spread of opinion among those research specialists working specifically in radio. However, a majority (58% to 42%) still favoured the status quo.

Says MRG chairman Christina Hartley: " This is clearly a contentious issue for the radio sector at the moment. The professionals that the MRG represents are clear that electronic surveys are not an automatic panacea for consumption analysis. The vote of no confidence in immediate implementation is a clear signal that any mechanism must be fully tested."

Data sourced from: Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff