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Radio surges in popularity thanks to digital

Radio audiences increased by more than 400,000 in the last quarter of 2008, to a high of 45.5 million listeners a week.

Almost one fifth of all radio listening is now via digital, up from 16.6 per cent a year ago, with almost one third of the population (32.2 per cent) tuning in to radio via a digitally-enabled set each week.

Consumer confusion over the rebranding of Virgin Radio led to a 20 per cent dive in its audience. The weekly audience for Absolute Radio – known as Virgin Radio until it was acquired by the Times of India group – fell by nearly 500,000.

The statistics, from the radio body Rajar, showed that Sir Terry Wogan holds the biggest breakfast audience, with 7.96 million listeners tuning in on average each week, up from 7.74 million the previous quarter.

Chris Moyles's breakfast audience also grew, despite the Radio 1 DJ's recent jokes about Auschwitz, the gay singer Will Young, and his suggestion that Polish people make good prostitutes. He has 7.3 million listeners – up from 7.02 million. Radio 1 fared less well, drawing 10.58 million listeners per week, down from 10.87 million. Radio 2 has a weekly reach of 13.47 million listeners.

Classic FM, meanwhile, said its audience rose by 160,000 to 5.7 million. The most surprising rise was among younger audiences, where there was a 14 per cent increase.