So Radio 1 managed to avoid a Halloween horror show in the latest RAJAR ratings. But, even as the station’s audience inches back towards 10 million, focusing purely on that number seems more of a nonsense than ever before.
For a start, the idea that slightly under 9.9m represents a crisis figure in an era when The X Factor and EastEnders struggle to pull in that many is ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as the conflicting pressures put upon the nation’s one-time favourite radio station.
So the government says Radio 1 has to pursue a younger demographic, but RAJAR’s headline measurement only counts over-15s. The music industry wants high ratings, but also for the station to push new music. Commercial radio wants Radio 1 to stay off its turf, but needs it to break the hits it relies on playing.
This outbreak of people wanting to have their cake and eat it too is nothing new of course, and anyone who remembers the Matthew Bannister era will know that Radio 1 has endured far worse. But it’s worth remembering that Radio 1 is a unique, and surprisingly fragile ecosystem.
Just as, on a coral reef, those weird spongy bits might not pull in the tourists, but without them there’d probably be no brightly coloured fish for people to gawp at so, on our flagship pop station, you need the promise of hits to make people stay through the new music. And you need the security of loyal, older listeners to enable them to take the programming risks to attract new, younger ones.
No other successful media business would have so many people trying to tell it what to do. Time for Radio 1 to put on its headphones and ignore the lot of them.