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New radio station winning ratings war Celebrity-free Real doubles audience over three years

REAL Radio, which was relaunched a year ago, looks likely to take over the mantle as the most listened to station in central Scotland.

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New figures showing the listening habits of the 2.6 million people living in the region covering Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling, revealed the new channel has come from nowhere to have an almost identical weekly audience share to the established Glasgow-based station Clyde1 and has overtaken the UK's favourite, BBC Radio 2. Unlike Real Radio, Clyde1 can be heard only in half of the central belt. Clyde has been the dominant force on the central Scotland airwaves, but has had its share cut from 17.2% in 2000 to 12.6%, with Real Radio now just 0.1% behind. In the previous quarter, Clyde1 was still 1.1% ahead. While Real has doubled its audience since 2000, Clyde, which remains dominant on the west coast, has lost 100,000 listeners and now attracts a weekly audience of 657,000. The average listener tunes into Real longer than any other station, averaging 10.6 hours a week compared to Radio 2's 10.2 hours and Clyde1's 10 hours, according to the internally distributed analysis by the industry body Radio Joint Audience Research (Rajar). Real, with its mix of talk shows and pop music, also has eaten into Clyde2's audience, which dropped from 8.4% in 2000 to 7.7% in the first quarter of this year. Real has also taken listeners from BBC Radio Scotland, whose share has declined from 9.4% three years ago to 8.6% this year as the fourth most listened to station in the country. The audience of Forth One, the Edinburgh-based station, fell from 7.8% at the turn of the century to 5.9% in the last quarter of last year. This year brought an upturn, gaining 6.3% share. The emergence of the virtually celebrity-free Real has been revolutionary. Launched in January 2002, following the £ 25.5m purchase in 2001 of Scot FM which had an audience share of just 4.8%, Real now has 12.5% of the listenership. Even in its first quarter in 2002, it managed to turn the inherited 4.8% audience share into 8.7%, with its diet of 50% music and 50% speech and virtually unknown presenters. Real, now with a record high of 614,000 listeners, doubling the final Scot FM audience, is expected to have eclipsed Clyde1 when the listening figures for the second quarter of this year are released. John Myers, the chief executive of the Guardian Media Group's radio division, which runs the station, said: ''To be ready to take over as number one station so soon has surpassed our expectations, and it has been done without the football commentary rights for Old Firm matches like Clyde have.'' Employing 47 people at its headquarters in Baillieston, Glasgow, Real is planning to win the football rights from Clyde1 at the end of next season.

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