The Broadcast Research Council of South Africa has completed its first year of RAM quarterly reports for 2016 with the release of the October 2016 – March 2017 diary.
The latest RAM release is significant as it represented the first population update since the Broadcast Research Council (BRC) RAM survey was launched last August. This will inform the 12-month Establishment Survey (ES) report and also be used to bring up to date the TAMS panel later in the year. Thus it seemed an opportune time for me to pay a visit the BRC and catch up with CEO, Clare O’Neil.
Our starting point was, naturally, the population update, supplied annually by IHS. The RAM universe, comprising adults (15+) increased from 38 259 000 to 39 473 000 (up 3%). O’Neil pointed out that this increase had been consistent across metropolitan, small urban and rural areas. However, there have been some notable shifts in terms of age groups: The 25-34 group increased by 16.5% and the 35-49 by 5%. (The announcement this week of the 0.7% contraction in the South African economy suggests that this group of economically active people will be under particular pressure.) Growth in the 25-49 age group was pronounced in Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.
By contrast, the 50+ age group declined by 8%. The most noticeable declines were in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Unsurprisingly, these shifts also have a racial dimension: The proportion of whites in the population has dropped to 9%, while the percentage of blacks has edged up to 79%.
At every RAM presentation, the BRC reiterates that the data undergoes a rigorous pre-release scrutiny process, which involves four areas of assessment: sample, stability, weighting and station change. It is only after the data has passed through these ‘gates’ that it can be released. O’Neil was justifiably proud of the latest report’s average weighting efficiency being at 87%, up from the Jan-June 2016 report’s 83%. (Weighting efficiency is a measure of how closely the selected sample reflects the actual population it is chosen to represent.)
She was quick to remind me of the need for metropolitan areas to be disproportionately sampled. Some 60% of interviews are undertaken in metropolitan areas, but 41% of the adult population is metropolitan based. Of course, there is sound research methodology behind this. It is in metropolitan areas that radio listeners have the most station choices, and widest repertoires. To capture these and the diversity of demographics, ‘over-sampling’ is necessary.
O’Neil was naturally keen to talk about the latest innovation in the RAM research: The release of programme information. This was gathered during the placement interviews, and is therefore confined to the main respondents in the households. Questions are asked around what “type of broadcasts/topics” respondents “normally” and “most listen” to. It was, perhaps, no surprise that “music” and “news” are the two top programmes normally listened to, and listened to “most often”. Religious programmes, phone-ins, current affairs and soapies follow in popularity. Radio’s ability to entertain and inform its listeners, and meet a variety of audio need states, ensures its ubiquity and listener loyalty.
Looking at how these programme preferences played out over demographic groups, O’Neil was most amusing. Younger listeners show a preference for music, celebrity and soapies; they are less inclined to tune into news, advice and weather. The over 50s have much more sober interests: news is the main draw-card, followed by music. Religious programming falls into third place. Perhaps the closer one comes to meeting one’s maker, the more diligent one’s preparation for the event? Predictably, women are more concerned about the hereafter: men are more music and news orientated. Programming information certainly adds a new layer to the understanding of radio listening.
Reassuringly, the latest RAM report continues to confirm the wide reach and ubiquity of the medium. It continues to demonstrate long and loyal listening. Given the dynamics of the population update, it is no surprise that the top ten national stations continue to be dominated by the SABC, with Gagasi FM being the one commercial station to crack the list.
The BRC has, once again, delivered on its mandate of overseeing the production of reliable and credible research, as well as that of innovation.
To see the presentation, click on the image below.
Britta Reid is an independent media consultant.