BROADCASTING Radio 1 listeners fall below 10m for the first time

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Radio 1's forthcoming 30th anniversary celebrations had some of the fizz removed yesterday, when it emerged that its listenership has plunged below the 10 million mark for the first time.

The latest statistics from ratings researcher Rajar show that the BBC's pop and prattle service for young people is down to 9.67 million listeners - just over half the audience it drew when it was launched in 1967. The loss of 1.3 million listeners year-on-year is largely due to Chris Evans' abrupt departure from its breakfast show in January.

Evans' fans have been retuning in recent months to Virgin Radio or vibrant local music stations such as Capital and Heart FM in London. In overall national terms, commercial radio is enjoying unprecedented popularity, now accounting for 50.2 per cent of all listening. Radio 3's audience of 2.3 million is just half that of its commercial rival, Classic FM.

The latest Rajar results would have been even bleaker for the Beeb if Radio 2 and Radio 4 hadn't boosted their popularity. Critical attention will be focused on the latter to see whether it gains or loses listeners as a result of major scheduling changes it has just announced. But the impact of the controversial reforms won't register with Rajar for some time.