Northern Ireland

The Nolan Show confirmed as no longer ‘the biggest in the country’

Cool FM has more listeners in the weekday 9-10.30am slot, RAJAR data shows

Cool FM have claimed Stephen Nolan can no longer claim to have "the biggest show in the country". Pictured l-r; Cool FM presenters Paolo Ross, Rebecca McKinney, Pete Snodden and BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan.
Cool FM have claimed Stephen Nolan can no longer claim to have "the biggest show in the country". Pictured l-r; Cool FM presenters Paolo Ross, Rebecca McKinney, Pete Snodden and BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan.

Stephen Nolan’s radio programme is no longer ‘the biggest show in the country’, according to official figures confirmed to The Irish News.

Cool FM has surpassed BBC Radio Ulster in the number of listeners during The Nolan Show slot on weekday mornings.

RAJAR, the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the UK, has found that, on average, from 9am to 10.30am, Cool FM featuring presenters Paolo Ross, Rebecca McKinney and Pete Snodden reaches 286,000 adults compared to BBC Radio Ulster’s 272,000.

However, the BBC is sticking by Stephen Nolan’s on-air claim that his show has twice as many listeners on average as Cool FM in that slot.

BBC NI to cut jobs
BBC NI to cut jobs BBC Broadcasting House in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The public service broadcaster said it calculated the figure by multiplying the average reach, or listenership, with the average number of hours someone is tuned in over the week.

This is not a RAJAR-supplied calculation or included in its quarterly numbers.

RAJAR is jointly owned by the BBC and the commercial sector trade body Radiocentre. It is understood to have written to BBC Northern Ireland to ask the broadcaster if it has another source or methodology backing the claim The Nolan Show has double the audience of Cool FM.

The public service broadcaster said it calculates its audience by multiplying average reach, 272,000, with the average length of time an individual spends listening over the week, 3.4 hours.

Mr Nolan told his listeners last week: “This programme (The Nolan Show), when it starts at 9am in the morning, it has more than double the audience of Cool FM at this time of day.

All the north's main radio stations reported a year-on-year increase in listeners according to industry monitoring body Rajar
RAJAR has confirmed Cool FM more listeners between 9am and 10.30am week days, but BBC says average audience for The Nolan Show is double.

“So what they’re doing is they are counting the amount of people listening to Cool FM between 6 and 7, 7 and 8 and 8 and 9, when I’m asleep.

“So yes, they have more listeners than me when I’m asleep. But from 9 to 10.30am we have more than double Cool FM’s audience.”

RAJAR listening data is referred to as ‘reach’ and ‘hours’, which is the distinction between listeners and listening, according to the organisation.

“The most recent set of results (Q4, 2023)… are as follows; in an average week between 9-10.30am Monday–Friday, Cool FM reaches 286,000 adults whilst BBC Radio Ulster reaches 272,000 adults. These are individuals (aged 15+) that have tuned in for at least five minutes or more,” a RAJAR spokesperson said.

Over the time period, people are listening to BBC Radio Ulster for longer, on average 3.4 hours per week versus 1.5 hours for Cool FM, RAJAR added.

In response to RAJAR stating that Cool FM does have a larger listenership during The Nolan Show, the BBC said: “The comment Stephen made on air referred to the average number of people listening to his show (the average audience) which is double that of Cool FM during the same 9.00 to 10.30 weekday time slot.”

The BBC then added that “the data supplied by RAJAR also shows… the length of time spent by a listener to The Nolan Show in an average week is also double that of listeners to Cool FM in the same slot”.

A spokesperson added: “We are delighted that listening by reach is strong across the local radio market. Our local stations are here to do different things, which creates listener choice, something the BBC very much supports,” a spokesperson added.

Stuart Robinson. PICTURE: COOL FM
Stuart Robinson. PICTURE: COOL FM

Questions over the listenership figures were prompted by comments made by Cool FM Stuart Robinson, who advised Mr Nolan to no longer claim to be the “biggest show in the country”.

“In the set of data that came out last week, when you look at the breakdown of the shows, not only is Cool FM now the most-listened-to station in Northern Ireland, but Cool FM now has the top three radio shows per listenership,” Mr Robinson said.

“Pete’s on from 6am to 10am and Nolan’s on from 9am to 10.30am, but for the first time ever, even in that individual slot – Nolan’s slot - Cool FM is outperforming BBC Radio Ulster for total number of listeners.”