The British government's ad unit has waded into the row over how radio ratings should be measured.

COI Communications -- the administrative interface between the government and its roster of marketing agencies -- has revealed plans to speak with Kelvin MacKenzie, the former tabloid editor who champions an electronic methodology after falling out with official ratings service RAJAR. (Radio Joint Audience Research).

Earlier this year, MacKenzie -- now chairman/ceo of Murdoch-controlled radio firm The Wireless Group -- commissioned a survey from GfK that uses an electronic wristwatch to measure audiences. He claims the paper diary methodology still used by RAJAR discriminates against smaller stations such as TWG's TalkSPORT.

Now COI plans to meet with Mackenzie in the next few weeks to discuss using the GfK survey to plan its radio advertising.

"Kelvin MacKenzie has made a strong case for changing the diary system," COI declared. "We would support using the latest technology to improve on the current system. We see this as an industry-wide issue."

Such comments from a marketer as big as COI are a major blow to RAJAR. The government unit was the second biggest advertiser in Britain in 2002 [WAMN: 28-Feb-03], and in the year to October 2003 spent an estimated £23 million ($41m; €33m) on radio ads.

Advertisers are now taking more interest in GfK's survey. Earlier this week, Transport for London and its media agency PHD unveiled a research project designed to compare the effectiveness of the RAJAR and GfK surveys as planning tools.

RAJAR has so far rejected every electronic measurement system on offer and insists it will not be bullied into adopting a methodology it is unhappy with. Further trials are due next year.

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