Media Lifeline: London breakfast radio

The fierce battle between Capital, Heart and Magic for early audiences shows no sign of abating.

April 2004: As Johnny Vaughan (pictured) replaces Chris Tarrant - the host of Capital Radio's breakfast show for 17 years, and still drawing an audience of 1.37 million listeners when he moves on - bosses are confident the new boy can maintain the show's dominance.

February 2005: Vaughan's first few months are shaky, as around 20 per cent of the Tarrant audience defects to Virgin, Heart 106.2 and Radio 1. An unofficial poll even scores Heart's Jono Coleman as the leading breakfast show DJ in the London market. But as Vaughan fights back in the fourth quarter, Heart slips dramatically - and Coleman is fired.

August 2005: Coleman's replacement is the former children's television presenter Jamie Theakston, and he joins in April as Heart prepares to celebrate overtaking Capital in overall audience share. But as the second-quarter audience figures are published, it's clear that Vaughan is significantly outperforming Theakston as Heart slumps to overall third place in the London commercial market.

October 2006: Theakston and his co-host, Harriet Scott, draw level with Vaughan for the third quarter - and are ahead in terms of reach. Capital is third in the London market; but many predict it will bounce back when its marketing bears fruit.

February 2007: It's not to be - and the publication of fourth-quarter Rajar figures shows the Theakston and Scott team (with 948,000 listeners) pulling ahead of Vaughan for the first time in terms of both share and reach, though Vaughan's audience is slightly up (31,000) to 813,000. Luckily, the figures come a matter of days after Vaughan has signed a new four-year contract.

Fast forward ...

September 2007: Despite astonishing scenes of management upheaval at its parent company, GCap, Capital stands by its London breakfast man, even though Heart continues to storm ahead. There's consternation as Emap's Magic threatens to contest second spot in the battle for breakfast - and there are even rumours that Coleman, his sojourn in Australia coming to an end, might return to host Magic's breakfast show.

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