TNS Supports MacKenzie's UK Radio Research Rant

11 September 2003

Taylor Nelson Sofres, is at one with Kelvin MacKenzie, the bombastic former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s top-selling British tabloid The Sun.

TNS, the globe’s third largest market and media research group? Standing four-square beside the famed begetter of mammary-baring ‘page three’ girls and a welter of xenophobic, jingoistic, sexist headlines?

Surprisingly, yes. On one topic at least they are of like mind. That of radio audience measurement.

MacKenzie – these days the ceo of The Wireless Group, Rupert Murdoch’s relatively puny UK radio operation which owns the national TalkSport station – has railed long and loud at the current manual ‘diary’ methodology employed by RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research).

Not least, he avers, because it’s an archaic system that favours the big players at the expense of his own operation. And no less a person than Michael Kirkham, the respected chief executive of TNS, agrees with MacKenzie.

“The existing methods of audience measurement of radio are very archaic,” says Kirkham. “They require people to remember what they listen to and then write it down. It is becoming more and more difficult for people to do that. Long term, they [RAJAR] have to move to some kind of electronic measurement.”

TNS’ Belgian unit uses an electronic system to measure radio and television audiences for that nation’s public broadcaster VRT. But the introduction of such technology is fiercely resisted by certain UK radio companies.

Similar technology, suported by MacKenzie and already tested independently in the UK, records a user’s listening habits via an electronic ‘wristwatch’ rather than relying on memory as to the stations/programmes heard. It generates audience data that differs dramatically from that of RAJAR.

Such a system “will improve the value of radio as an advertising medium in the eyes of the advertisers and the agencies,” believes Kirkham. “It will happen inevitably, but there are a lot of forces of inertia out there.”

RAJAR, meantime, claims the new technology has been examined by its board but is not up to scratch. “When we are happy with the technology then it will be put to the board again. But we were not happy with the technology at the end of the last set of tests,” says the body’s managing director Jane O’Hara.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff