UK Broadcasters Await First Wristwatch Ratings Results

26 May 2003

First results are due this week from a new UK ratings research service that for the first time measures both TV and radio consumption.

Conducted by Gfk, the survey uses electronic wristwatches to register the watching and listening habits of participants, allowing direct comparison between the two.

At present, ‘official’ TV ratings body BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) employs boxes on top of panel members’ TV sets, while radio counterpart RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) uses a diary system.

RAJAR has recently come under fire from Kelvin MacKenzie, quondam tabloid editor and now chairman/ceo at Murdoch-controlled radio minnow The Wireless Group, who claims the diary method discriminates against smaller stations.

Indeed, TWG commissioned the Gfk research [WAMN: 21-Feb-03], and rumour has it MacKenzie will not be disappointed by the results.

The survey includes the five national BBC radio stations, three national stations from the commercial sector, plus the major TV channels. A study of ten London radio stations will make its first report in September.

The release of the results drew a cautious response from industry onlookers. Said Richard Jacobs, Mediacom’s head of radio: “I will examine the data with great interest and healthy scepticism, as I would with any research conducted out on a limb and apart from the rest of the industry.”

The Radio Advertising Bureau, meanwhile, said it backed RAJAR’s ongoing tests with both wristwatches and electronic pagers. “It would be less reliable to draw any conclusions from a survey based on the wristwatch methodology alone, without full knowledge of how the data was collected,” the industry body added.

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