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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 18:23 GMT
Breakfast rejects boost Radio 1
Sara Cox
Sara Cox is doing well in the Radio 1 breakfast job
BBC Radio 1 is celebrating another rise in audience figures, spearheaded by former breakfast show hosts Mark and Lard.

The double act - Mark Radcliffe and sidekick Marc Riley - got the boot from the station's morning slot in 1997 after audiences plummeted.

But their afternoon show has proved to be one of Radio 1's biggest success stories, putting on nearly half a million listeners in a year.

Mark Radcliffe and Marc
Afternoon delights: Mark and Lard
The rise of 490,000 is revealed in the latest quarterly radio audience figures, compiled by industry body Rajar.

Current breakfast show host Sara Cox is also doing well, with 390,000 more listeners than previous incumbent Zoe Ball had at the same time last year.

Cox's audience actually fell by 180,000 on the previous quarter, but the BBC puts this down to school summer holidays, and a spokesman added Zoe Ball suffered a larger fall in 1999.

"Younger listeners don't have to get up as early and listen to the show," he said.

Mark and Lard's mixture of music and near-the-knuckle humour now attracts an audience of 5.3 million each day, with their spokesman saying the pair had "really found their niche in the afternoon".

The show, which is broadcast from Manchester, has also received recognition from the radio industry, winning two prestigious annual Sony prizes.

Figures up

Radio 1 as a whole has gained 300,000 listeners over the year, giving it 11.5 million listeners, and 11% of British radio listening.

Radio 2 saw even more success - backing up its claim to be the UK's most listened-to radio station, by posting an audience figure of 10.2 million, who tune in for 13 hours a week on average, giving it a 13% share of all listening.

There were also rises for Radio 3 and Radio 4, but Radio 5Live lost 200,000 listeners over the past year - although the BBC puts this down to the Premiership football season starting later in 2000.

Rival station talkSPORT, however, saw its audience rise by 9% year-on-year - nine months after it relaunched as a sports station, with 5Live's coverage in its sights.

Virgin Radio lost 200,000 listeners to its national AM frequency, while Classic FM is toasting a 430,000 rise to just over six million.

James Naughtie, John Humphrys and Sue Macgregor
Capital stars: Today is breathing down Chris Tarrant's neck
In London, Chris Tarrant's dominance of the breakfast show airwaves is under threat from an unlikely competitor - Radio 4's Today programme.

Tarrant's show on Capital FM has been the most popular breakfast show in London for a decade, but Capital's huge audience has been eroded by competition from the city's other pop stations, Kiss 100 and Heart 106.2.

Now the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? host is just 10,000 listeners in front of John Humphrys, James Naughtie and Sue Macgregor's current affairs programme.

Recognising this, he told Wednesday's Evening Standard newspaper that the "radio wars" with Radio 1 and Chris Evans on Virgin were over-hyped.

"In reality, my main rivals are [Radio 2's] Terry Wogan and Radio 4, and they have been for years. It's not sexy, but it's true."

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See also:

03 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Cox is BBC's breakfast toast
11 May 00 | UK
Net boosts radio figures
03 Feb 00 | Entertainment
DJ Zoe's ratings winner
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