Once beleaguered BBC 6 Music wins biggest-ever 2m audience

Popular presenters like Lauren Laverne have helped the Radio station - which gets a quarter of its audience online - to new success

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The once-doomed BBC Radio 6 Music has reached a record audience of two million listeners despite only being available digitally.

Lauren Laverne is one of the station's most popular presenters with her late morning show drawing an audience of 868,000 each week.

The station, which the BBC had planned to disband four years ago prompting petitions to save it, now has its biggest ever audience, according to figures released by audience research body Rajar.

The latest figures also show 27 per cent of 6 Music listening is through the internet, the first time that a UK station has pulled in more than a quarter of its audience in that way.

BBC 6 presenters Laverne and Steve Lamacq regularly pull in nearly 700,000 listeners.  In early 2010, when 6 Music was threatened with the axe, its audience stood at 695,000.

Conversely, the station’s proposed closure had the effect of boosting its profile and its audience. The latest figures show it now has 1.99 million listeners, up more than a quarter of a million in a year.

It won more listeners than Radio 3 by a narrow margin earlier this year, but has now increased its lead significantly. The latest quarterly figures reveal the classical music station has 1.91 million listeners weekly.

Earlier this month MP Tom Watson suggested that Radio 3 should give up its FM slot to 6 Music as a result of being leapfrogged by the digital service.

Helen Boaden, Director of BBC Radio, said: "I'm absolutely delighted to see Radio 6 Music flourishing and one of our roster of outstanding female presenters leading the charge. The station offers something completely distinctive and Lauren's show is a case study in engaging and intelligent music radio."

The new figures also reveal that record-breaking Radio 2 breakfast show presenter Chris Evans - who has the UK's biggest show - lost 600,000 listeners in the space of three months leaving him with an audience of 9.3 million.

Radio 2 overall also lost half a million in the same period to give an audience of 15.01 million.

Evans's Radio 1 breakfast rival Nick Grimshaw was down 150,000 to 5.82 million, with the station as a whole down a quarter of a million on 10.55 million for the three months.

Ben Cooper, the Radio 1 controller, defended the station's record and said: "As Radio 1 continues to lead the industry in becoming a multi-platform youth brand, which recently passed 1.6 million YouTube subscribers, these figures only tell part of the story. I'm very pleased that in the traditionally difficult summer quarter, the Radio 1 Breakfast Show has 240,000 new listeners in the year."

Radio 4 had a weekly audience of 10.62 million, with its flagship Today programme on 6.69 million.