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Discord continues in battle of the FM band

MANAGING director of Perth radio station Nova, Gary Roberts, is sticking by his claim that a recent AC Nielsen rolling survey on the 18 to 24 age bracket ratings is inaccurate.

Survey five results revealed that Nova had dropped to fourth spot in the 18 to 24 age bracket.

The latest results from survey six show an improved performance by Nova, however, with the station rising to third position in the 18 to 24 age bracket. Rival 92.9 leads the race at 23 per cent, followed by 96fm at 18.1 per cent, Nova at 15.6 per cent and 94.5 at 13.6 per cent.

It is understood that, due to the rolling survey methodology used to conduct radio surveys, five weeks of data from survey five has been rolled over into survey six.

As a result the data from survey five, which reflects Nova’s audience loss, will still have an effect on ratings results until survey eight, to be released on December 9.

But Linda Wayman, general manager of Austereo, which manages 92.9 and 94.5, said the survey six results were confirmation that Nova did not lead the pack in the 18 to 24 bracket.

“Commercial Radio [CRARC] has advised Perth general managers that the independent survey auditor, Dr Rob Hall, found nothing of significance that would have affected the veracity of the overall survey five results,” she said.

“Dr Hall recommended acceptance of the survey, as presented by Nielsen Media Research Australia, and his recommendation was accepted by the industry.

“We will leave Nova to continue chasing its tail, and 92.9 and 94.5’s focus will, on the other hand, be to continue delivering great radio product to our 700,000-plus listeners.”

For its part, Nova has requested an audit of survey five and will submit its concerns to the Commercial Radio Australia Research Committee (CRARC) on October 7.

Nova will officially request that the CRARC investigate, in conjunction with the contracted research company, the policy:

defines a diary as acceptable for inclusion in the survey sample;

determines when an extreme or unusual listening pattern is acceptable or not; and

determines when a call-back needs to be made to a diary keeper to confirm listening patterns, when they are not generally considered to be a reasonable reflection of listening patterns within that demographic cell.

“In addition to these issues, Nova 93.7 has requested that diaries in survey five, that were filled out by a person other than the nominated diary keeper, and contain extraordinary time spent listening (TSL), be deleted from the data being rolled forward into survey six,” Mr Roberts said.

Brand Agency chairman and managing director Ken James told WA Business News such disputes were nothing new.

“Disputes over survey results have always happened and any good CEO would be trying to make sure that his or her station looks advantageous,” Mr Brand said.

AdLink managing director John Carlson supported this view.

“I wonder what his [Gary Roberts] comment would be if the survey was the other way around,” Mr Carlson said.

“He sanctioned and agreed to the survey at the beginning, so he can hardly turn around now and disagree with the results that have been given.”

According to John Davis Advertising senior account director Neil Cummings, however, there are questions over the validity of the latest survey results.

“I have my doubts about the survey’s results, indicating that Nova has lost such a huge share,” Mr Cummings said.

“All research has inconsistencies, but these seem like massive glitches beyond the normal.

“I’d like to see the results from survey eight, when the carry-over from the survey five results has been eliminated, so until then I don’t think we can comment on Nova’s dramatic losses.”

As reported in WA Business News (September 4), Ms Wayman believes the Perth market is too small to support four FM stations and expects Nova to struggle.

And while Mr James agrees the local market is too small for four players, he isn’t convinced that Nova will be the one to feel the heat.

“The reason there is a new ratings war is because Nova’s arrival on the scene has simply created more competition,” Mr James said.

“I think it’s great for the market though, as it’s good for business, has a competitive edge and I can only see the marketplace benefiting from it.

“Only the businesses know about their profitability, but I think it’d be increasingly difficult to manage with four radio stations in Perth, as there probably is not an acceptable return on investment.

“There’s also a number of other radio stations looking to maintain their share of market as well.

“Since Nova’s arrival the market, which is well-catered for, has settled down and what Nova is offering is not unique.”

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