Patient approach is the only way for Rajar to get it right

What I remember most from my childhood is the crippling disappointment I felt when I didn't get the latest must-have toy, writes Ian Darby.

When the Chopper bike didn't arrive under the Christmas tree or when the digital watch from my grandparents had fewer features (not even a stopwatch) than my friend's.

Perhaps this deprivation feeds my current gadget obsession and explains why I've had to divert underwear from my top bedroom drawer to make way for chargers for a mobile phone, laptop, iPod, GameBoyAdvance, digital camera and digital radio.

The desire to get all this gadgetry tends to bring out my ungrateful and impatient side, which is why I reckon Rajar's caution in assessing new gadgets to measure listening is the grown-up way forward.

While Kelvin MacKenzie, the chief executive of The Wireless Group, stamps his feet in frustration like a cross between Rumpelstiltskin and Veruca Salt, the rest of the radio industry has backed Rajar in its "roadmap for change" for enhanced radio audience measurement.

While calling something a roadmap is never a good idea -- roadmaps tend to be outdated the minute they are published -- I found it hard to disagree with much of its contents.

It proposes tests of three electronic measurement systems (including the wristwatch used for the research MacKenzie is already using from GfK), to conclude by September 2005. There will then be a tender process to run new research that will hopefully result in the parallel running of electronic measurement with the current diary system by 2007.

It's all painfully slow and expensive (Rajar's shareholders have already spent £800,000 on testing electronic measurement) but extreme care is called for if the current shoddy diary system is to be replaced by something as close to flawless as possible.

Other commercial radio companies -- Virgin Radio is a notable example -- have agreed with MacKenzie that Rajar is flawed but want to get the new system right.

Critics of Rajar have focused on the poor representation of certain audience groups on its panel. A patient approach will provide greater certainty that the panel is up to scratch as well as hooked up to the best system.

MacKenzie reckons Rajar's caution has cost him money, and is set to have his day in court in early November after taking legal action. Cynics snigger over MacKenzie's findings as much as Rajar's so this all seems an entertaining sideshow until the real system is introduced.

But in a way I hope Kelvin's right and the wristwatch ends up as the must-have accessory of 2007. I already know it has more functions than the crappy digital I had as a child.

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