Public response to the network’s initial launch was mixed. For instance, in November, the Danish daily Politiken had four people of different ages listen to Radio24syv’s first week on air and react to what they heard. Most of them thought Radio24syv sounded fresher and younger than DR, but with less substance. They tended to think that the discussion programs seemed totally unplanned—programs which at their best could be surprising and engaging, and at their worst could be disorganized and boring. In February, three months after the launch, one Politiken columnist criticized the network for its poor sound quality and repeated on-air flubs by inexperienced hosts, while another praised it for its sense of humor.
Now, almost seven months after its launch, Radio24syv is still working to challenge the status quo. According to a media usage report published by DR’s audience research department at the end of 2011, Radio24syv’s weekly listenership in its first two months on air was higher than experts had expected—almost half a million listeners, in a country of only 5.5 million people—but still much lower than the audience for DR’s competing station, P1, and that figure has since declined to about 300,000.
However, the report also pointed out that Radio24syv had “to some degree helped lift talk radio’s share of the total listening time” when compared to listenership of all types of radio. And that was one of the main goals for the Danish government’s establishment of a new talk network, one that Ramskov embraces.
“We have already seen some adjustments in P1, in terms of being more live, more able to reflect the daily news,” Ramskov says. “My hope is, we’re not so focused on stealing audience from P1—we’re more focused on increasing the overall [market] for talk radio.” He also told Politiken that his goal was to average half a million weekly listeners by the end of Radio24syv’s first year.
To increase its listenership, Radio24syv will continue to solicit listener feedback and adjust its programming accordingly. At the end of April, the network commenced an overhaul of its weekly lineup. It cancelled the programs that weren’t working well, like a current affairs hour about Russia, and added new ones, like a call-in advice show featuring topics like marriage and law. And it will expand: this month brought the announcement that the network would be opening a second branch in Aarhus, the second-largest city in Denmark. Live broadcast from Aarhus is scheduled to begin in June. Ramskov told reporters that this is only the beginning of the network’s geographic expansion, and that he hoped this would help address criticism that it was too Copenhagen-centric.
Whatever Radio24syv does, as long as it fulfills its obligations laid out by the media charter, it will continue to be funded by Denmark’s license fee for eight years—which Ramskov calls a “once in a lifetime” opportunity for him and the other journalists involved. When asked what he thought Radio24syv would look like in eight years’ time, he laughs.
“I’m afraid I haven’t been able to dream that wild yet!” he says. “I hope that there will be a lot of talent and a lot of ideas that will come out of this that a lot of the things that we start doing, perhaps DR will take them over, or perhaps some of the commercial stations will—but that we will be an incubator of innovation.”