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August 3, 2023updated 26 Oct 2023 8:33am

RAJARs: Talkradio and GB News Radio grow as other speech stations slump

RAJARs for Q2 2023 show a mixed bag for news and current affairs-based stations.

By Aisha Majid

Update, 26/10/23: The most recent RAJAR figures, for the third quarter of 2023, can be viewed here.

GB News Radio, Talkradio and Talksport were the only speech radio stations to see year-on-year audience growth in Q2 2023, according to the latest RAJAR listening figures.

GB News Radio recorded a 14% year-on-year audience boost, up to 317,000 from 277,000 in Q2 last year.

It follows similar strong annual growth for the station in last quarter’s RAJAR results, when it recorded a weekly reach of 319,000.

GB News Radio’s weekly audience was however below its peak of 415,000 in the third quarter of 2022, and it remains at the bottom of our ranking of speech stations, behind even LBC News’ London-only figure of 431,000.

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GB News Radio, which launched in January 2022 as a simulcast of the GB News TV channel, also saw a boost in listening hours which were up 30% year-on-year to 2.2 million in Q2.

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According to additional RAJAR figures shared by GB News, although its radio station pulled in a smaller weekly audience overall it beat Times Radio (by 61% more listeners), Talkradio (115% more) and LBC News (by around 100%) in the 7pm to 10pm primetime slot.

GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos said: “We’re aiming to be the UK’s number one news channel by 2028 and these figures show we’re already resolutely achieving that in primetime across the board.

“Online, we have the fastest-growing news website in the country, and on television we are increasingly breaking the duopoly of Sky News and BBC News by winning the ratings at breakfast and in primetime especially.”

News Broadcasting’s Talkradio and Talksport were the only other speech stations that increased their audience in the three months to 25 June.

Talkradio’s weekly reach grew 6% year-on-year to 727,000 in Q2 2023, while sister sports station Talksport’s audience was up 20% to 3.2 million. Talkradio, which now simulcasts with TalkTV, has a lineup including Julia Hartley-Brewer, Mike Graham, Ian Collins, Vanessa Feltz, Jeremy Kyle and Piers Morgan.

News UK’s president of broadcasting, Scott Taunton, said: “Another record for News Broadcasting – with the highest-ever listening hours in our history. Our world-class broadcasting talent is delivering across our national roster of stations, including Talksport, Virgin Radio, Talkradio and Times Radio, as well as U105 in Northern Ireland.

“News Broadcasting remains the UK’s most digital broadcasting group, with 84% of listening hours from digital and 35% from streaming, positioning us brilliantly for continued digital audience and revenue growth.”

The two News Broadcasting stations, however, followed the trend of other speech radio stations when it came to quarter-on-quarter performance. Talkradio saw a 13% fall in audience compared to the first three months of 2023, while Talksport’s listenership was down 2%.

Talkradio also recorded a fall in weekly listening hours, which were down 11% year-on-year to 4.6 million.

Less listeners to Times Radio but hours up

Fellow News UK property Times Radio saw its audience decline by 8% year-on-year and 6% quarter-on-quarter to 523,0000, but it did record a jump in listening hours.

Total weekly listening hours to the station, which launched in June 2020 as an alternative to Radio 4 and LBC, were up 25% year-on-year to 3.9 million. The station also saw record high listening hours per listener for another quarter with people tuning in for an average of 7.5 hours each.

According to News UK, Times Radio's audience is one of the wealthiest among commercial radio.

LBC audience down

LBC, owned by Global, saw a small audience drop of 2% compared to the same time last year, reaching 2.5 million people.

Global’s 24-hour rolling news station LBC News saw a bigger drop of 10% with weekly reach falling to 912,000 people, despite achieving record-breaking figures in the first quarter of the year.

BBC radio loses audience, but on-demand grows

All BBC speech radio stations tracked by Press Gazette continued to shed audience between March and June as users are increasingly switching to digital audio formats, according to the corporation.

BBC World Service saw the largest listenership drop as its weekly audience fell 23% to 1.1 million, while BBC Radio 4’s audience was down 13% to nine million people.

BBC Radio 2, the UK’s largest radio station, which presents a mixture of music and speech content, saw a fall of 7% to 13.5 million weekly listeners.

Listening hours at the corporation were similarly down. Total listening hours for the BBC World Service were down 32% year-on-year to five million. Last year the BBC made cuts to its World Service output including the end of radio broadcasts in Arabic, Persian, Hindi and Chinese, as well as hundreds of job losses in the face of increasing costs and cash flat licence fee revenue.

Total time tuned in for BBC Radio 4 also fell by 10% to 10.4 million hours. However, at 11.6 hours the station recorded the highest average listening time per listener of the stations Press Gazette tracks.

The BBC remains the UK’s number one radio broadcaster, reaching 56% of people aged over 15.

Its on-demand service BBC Sounds posted a record quarter, up nearly 50% from last year, according to data supplied by the corporation.

The BBC said its strategy to grow its digital listenership has resulted in a record 216 million plays of on-demand radio and podcasts on the Sounds platform, which for the first time includes plays from smart speakers.

Daily podcast BBC Newscast was the most listened to on-demand podcast of the quarter for the corporation. On-platform plays were up by 30% in the past year, according to the BBC, while nine of the top ten most listened-to radio programmes on BBC Sounds came from BBC Radio 4.

The BBC's Global News Podcast was its most popular in third party platforms such as Spotify and Apple.

Charlotte Moore, BBC chief content officer, said: "Our digital listening is up significantly and I’m delighted to see another recording breaking quarter for BBC Sounds which has grown the amount of plays year-on-year by nearly 50%."

"With Radio 4 we’re adapting to meet the changing listening needs of our audiences and have risen to the challenge with on-demand listening for the station up by 15.1% year-on-year with its programming dominating the most listened to charts.

"The quality of content is world class and Radio 4 remains the home for trusted and impartial news, thought provoking current affairs, ground breaking documentaries, and boundary pushing comedy, arts and drama."

Radio 4 Today loses 15% of its audience

The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2 remains the UK’s most popular breakfast broadcast attracting 6.7 million listeners - although this was down by 8% on the 7.3 million people that tuned in during Q2 2022.

The Today Programme on Radio 4 had 5.5 million listeners (down 15% year on year), while LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast reached 1.34 million weekly listeners across the UK.

Talkradio’s breakfast programme led by Julia Hartley-Brewer was tuned into by an average of 306,000 people each week (up 2% year-on-year) - ahead of Times Radio's Stig Abell and Aasmah Mir on 284,000 (up 16%).

Earlier this year longstanding BBC Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce left the corporation to join Bauer Media's Greatest Hits Radio. Bauer reached a record 22.8 million people across the company's stations which it put down to "the Ken effect". Bruce's show, which began in April, reached three million listeners on average.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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