MacKenzie Prepares Lawsuit Over UK Radio Ratings

14 July 2003

Former tabloid editor Kelvin MacKenzie plans to sue Britain’s radio audience measurement service after it refused to change methodologies.

RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) recently rejected two electronic measurement schemes it had tested as possible replacements for its existing diary methodology [WAMN: 02-Jul-03].

One of these electronic devices – GfK’s Radiocontrol wristwatch – is backed by MacKenzie, now boss of Murdoch-controlled radio minnow The Wireless Group. MacKenzie has long argued that RAJAR’s current methods discriminate against smaller stations, not least TWG’s TalkSPORT.

Earlier this year, he commissioned a rival survey using Radiocontrol. First results were released in May, with TalkSPORT picking up nearly four times as many listeners as are reported in RAJAR figures [WAMN: 30-May-03].

However, RAJAR rejected Radiocontrol because it found the system could not distinguish between AM and FM broadcast platforms. The body also decided not to use Arbitron’s Portable People Meter on the basis of cost, as it would require a sixfold increase in the size of RAJAR’s panel.

MacKenzie, writing in UK trade magazine Media Week, surprised nobody by attacking the decision, claiming it reflects “a collection of vested interests.” He intends to take RAJAR to court over the rejection.

The one-time editor of The Sun turned his anger on RAJAR managing director Jane O’Hara, who last week declared: “We have a duty of care to the industry and it would be irresponsible to introduce a technology that we feel isn’t right.”

“The supreme irony that seems to have escaped Ms O’Hara,” fumed MacKenzie, “is that TWG is damaged daily by the data RAJAR releases under the diary system.”

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