I’m small beer in this which is OK because I do like a small beer. The best I’ve had is 9 707 readers for a story. I tend to average nearer 2 000. However, pro-independence blog Wings over Scotland and Radio Scotland’s Good Mourning Scotland (GMS) seem like they may be getting very close in audience size. In fact, I’m going to wager Wings has pulled clear and GMS is spiralling downward to utter insignificance. First, Wings over Scotland claim:
‘Wings had just over 300,000 unique readers in June, despite taking the last couple of weeks off ourselves, bringing the monthly average readership for the first half of 2017 to 346,226. That’s 55,532 up on the same period last year, or a 19% increase.’
In an effort to establish the audience for GMS, Wings wrote to ask what it was only to be told the Freedom of Information Act didn’t really cover BBC audience figures even though citizens are forced to fund it. Wings commented:
‘On one level, we suppose it’s comforting to know that the BBC holds all of its patrons in contempt, not just those who support Scottish independence. It’s less uplifting to realise that the Freedom of Information Act only applies to the broadcaster in an abstract theoretical sense, even though citizens are forced to fund it under penalty of law whether they watch its output or not. That seems to us to veer terribly close to “taxation without representation”, particularly in the light of the fact that fewer than half of Scots feel the BBC is serving them adequately in its coverage of news and current affairs – the only part of the UK where that’s the case. (61% of English people, for example, are happy with it.) We suspect those feelings are reflected in the viewing statistics for the Corporation’s flagship Scottish political programmes, and that that’s the reason the BBC is so shy about revealing them. But since it appears that those numbers are an impenetrable state secret held above the law of the land, we’ll never know for sure.’
So, in the absence of official statistics, I’ve had to scrabble around piecing together the evidence. We do know from days when they felt less threatened that GMS lost 75 000 listeners in one year between 2008 and 2009. It slumped by 16.5% in that one year from 455 000 to 380 000. This coincided with the first SNP government in 2007 and recent growth of SNP support.
We know also that BBC Radio Scotland altogether has slumped by 35% between 2011 and 2016, from 1 350 000 to 901 000.
So, unless GMS is beating the trend for the rest of BBC Radio Scotland, we can perhaps assume a comparable slump from 2009 at 380 000, down by around 35%, to at best 250 000 in 2016. I think that’s generous in that I’ve left out any change from 2009 to 2011 for which I have no figures at all. I know there are a lot of ifs and buts in there but the BBC’s refusal to reveal the figures officially makes me think I might be on the right track and, on that basis, Wings is bigger than GMS.