chapter  10
6 Pages

– thepublic

viewers, listeners readers

They are all counted, after a fashion. Television boasts millions of viewers, about half the population of Britain on weekdays at around eight in the evening; radio extols an impressive ‘weekly reach’, about 90 per cent of the population listening for a good spell at some time during the week to one or more of the radio services; and newspapers claim confidently that many more people read their pages than buy them, one paper bought beingworth at least three readers. Themethods of counting vary and the three varieties of consumer are not readily comparable but the counting is independent andprofessional, as itmust be to satisfy advertisers and others with an objective interest.When the figures are released, individual stations and papers massage their message to their benefit and some degree of scepticism is warranted. The millions viewing what the industry knows as terrestrial television – that is ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC networks – plus the satellite services of BSkyB, include many not payingmuch attention as well as the obsessed. The millions who buy newspapers and the millionsmore who read them include headline scanners and light browsers whomiss

out the heavy pages as well as diligent readers who take in several articles at least from each page. For the majority of radio listeners, listening is a secondary activity, that is, they are nearly always doing something

else at the same time, the other activity being the more important. Radio survives strongly as backgroundwhichmeans thatmany people attend to it only lightly and intermittently. Were it more demanding, it would have fewer listeners.