BBC Northern Ireland has insisted The Nolan Show remains the “most listened to” radio broadcast in the north following claims it has been usurped by Cool FM.
Stephen Nolan’s weekday show on BBC Radio Ulster famously describes itself as the “biggest show in the country”, but Cool FM’s owners Bauer Media NI claim audience figures tell a different story.
Bauer content director Stuart Robinson said that while Radio Ulster had dominated ratings, “there has been a change in fortunes in the past 12 months”.
Mr Robinson told The Sunday Life: “Radio Ulster was always the biggest radio station in Northern Ireland, and as a consequence of that, Stephen Nolan obviously managed to build a nice strapline out of that for himself.
“However, about a year ago, Cool FM went ahead for the first time, and since then, every consecutive quarter when the new figures are coming out, we’ve continued to stay ahead of BBC Radio Ulster as the overall station for total listenership.”
He said the latest data from Rajar released showed that Cool FM was the most-listened to station as well as having the top three radio shows per listenership – Pete Snodden, Rebecca McKinney and Paulo Press.
“Pete’s on from 6am to 10am and Nolan’s on from 9am to 10.30am but for the first time ever, even in those individual slots, Cool FM is outperforming BBC Radio Ulster for total number of listeners,” Mr Robinson said.
“I heard my old pal Nolan banging on about still being the biggest show in the country. Stephen is a friend – we started out together in the 90s – and what he’s achieved has been incredible.
“But kidding aside, I would say it’s unwise in radio to create a slogan that is open to challenge by a rival, particularly if the inference is you are claiming a market position.”
As a result of going to Number 1, ahead of BBC Radio Ulster, Cool FM now leads with more listeners every week than any other radio station in Northern Ireland in all these key daytime timeslots 👇👇— Stuart Robinson (@stuartrobinson1) February 8, 2024
While acknowledging the BBC were “miles ahead in the ratings” when they first started using the slogan, he suggested there was “complacency” within the BBC that no other station could ever catch up.
“We know the sort of budgets that the BBC has. Radio Ulster had a £20m content budget last year.
“For us to be outperforming that with nowhere near – not a fraction – of what (they) have, then we are punching above our weight.”
However, a spokesperson for BBC NI told The Irish News: “Stephen Nolan’s weekday programme on BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle remains the ‘most listened to’ programme for local listeners – something that’s been confirmed by the latest Rajar data. We don’t take this success for granted and know that there’s healthy competition in the media marketplace.
“The audience reach of individual programmes takes account of their duration and the number of people listening during that time. This means that direct comparisons aren’t easy to make, or as straightforward as they might seem.”