'Today' booms and Moyles slips in radio ratings


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The Independent Online

A record audience is tuning in to the Today programme whilst Chris Moyles and Chris Evans have shed listeners, figures from the Rajar radio body have revealed.

Radio 4 is more popular than ever, with 10.85 million weekly listeners, boosted by a strong performance from Today, which attracted its highest ever audience of 7.18 million in the last quarter.

The news agenda over the recording period was dominated by celebrity superinjunctions, the Royal Wedding, the killing of Osama bin Laden and upheaval in the Middle East.

Radio 4’s popularity was reflected in increased listening to Woman’s Hour, The Archers, PM and The World At One. Gwyneth Williams, Radio 4 Controller, has announced controversial schedule changes, which would cut back the number of short stories broadcast each week.

The rebranded Radio 4 Extra digital station, previously BBC 7, added half-a-million listeners and now has an audience of 1.61 million. The station features comedy, extended versions of Desert Island Discs and a spin-off from The Archers.

Whilst Radio 4 surged, both Radio 1 and 2 declined. Chris Moyles, who signed a new deal keeping him at the R1 breakfast show until 2014, saw his audience fall to 7.44 million listeners, down 280,000 over the past year.

Radio 1’s audience has fallen back slightly from a record 11.8 million to 11.69 million. Its share is down to 8.5% from 9.3% last year.

The successor to Andy Parfitt, the Radio 1 Controller who stepped down after 13 years, will have to take further measures to lower the average age of listeners.

However 1Xtra, the digital urban music station, has seen its audience soar to almost one million weekly listeners.

Chris Evans lost nearly 500,000 listeners to reach 8.67 million on the Radio 2 breakfast show. Overall Radio 2 has 13.97 million listeners, up from last year’s 13.73m but down from the last quarter’s 14.54 million.

The 6 Music station, saved from closure last year after a public outcry, has begun to lose listeners. Its audience is 1.27 million, down from 1.3 million in the last quarter.

Radio 3 has a weekly audience of 2.17 million listeners, compared to 1.86m last year and 2.26m last quarter. 

Radio 5 Live posted a combined reach with sister station 5 live sports extra of 6.68 million listeners, down from 6.80 million last year.

The BBC World Service, facing cuts to jobs and foreign language services under a reduced government funding settlement, posted a UK reach of 1.72 million, up from 1.29 million last year.

There was good news for the commercial sector too. More than 34 million people listen to commercial radio in the UK each week, which is over a million more than the same quarter in 2010.  Commercial radio recorded its best audience share figures since 2004.

The RAJAR figures show that commercial stations gained a further 1.1 per cent on the previous quarter to reach 43.7 per cent of listening hours. The BBC fell to 54.0 per cent of hours.

National commercial stations which significantly gained listeners include Jazz FM, KISS UK and Smooth Radio UK, as well as Planet Rock and Absolute Radio.

Radio listening is at an all-time high, with 91.7% of the population tuning in each week.

Mobile phone listening is up 16.1% year-on-year with those listening via a digital receiver now accounting for 26.9% of all radio listening.