According to Rajar, the organisation which researches the listener base of radio and TV stations, the national talk station LBC did not lose listeners as a result of sacking Katie Hopkins, a professional bigot who had a slot on the station until she was sacked in May this year after saying a “final solution” (a term used by the Nazis to refer to the Holocaust) to terrorism was needed after the bombing in Manchester that month, and in fact its figures increased in the quarter from April to June. (Hat tip: MEND.)
A lot of people who listen to local radio stations do so for local and traffic news (which LBC has despite having gone national a few years ago; they were originally a London talk station), so sacking a host will have less impact on a local station than on a national one, but even so, any change of presenter is likely to cause a temporary dent in listenership figures as a new show, however good, will be an uknown quantity at first and need time to ‘bed in’ and build up its audience. That Hopkins’s departure did not have that effect suggests that she was putting people off, not bringing them in.
I was a regular listener to the BBC London morning show in the mid-2000s and I remember what happened the week after bully-boy host Jon Gaunt was replaced, temporarily, with Geoff Schumann: the following week, there was new caller after new caller who had not dared call in when Gaunt was on the other end of the line. How many of them were new listeners I don’t know, although perhaps they might have started listening more frequently after Gaunt left. But the moral is that managers should not be afraid to ditch a host who, despite their big name, is a bully or bigot or thrives on needless controversy, because it may bring new listeners in and, importantly for a station with a lot of phone-ins, lead to new voices joining the ‘conversation’.
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