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May 16, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:48am

RAJARs: Radio audiences grow as 32m tune in to news and current affairs in first quarter 2019

By Freddy Mayhew

Nearly 32m people listened to news and current affairs radio in the first three months of the year, new audience figures show.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme grew its weekly audience to 7.32m listeners, according to RAJAR figures for January to March 2019, up from 6.9 in the final three months of 2018. It had 7.22m listeners last year.

Editor Sarah Sands dismissed claims that the show was “in crisis” following an 800,000 year-on-year fall in listeners last year, with the BBC putting the fall down to the end of a busy news period.

BBC Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live both grew their audiences on the previous quarter.

Radio 4 saw its weekly audience climb to 11m, up from 10.48m on the final three months of 2018, with a 12 per cent audience share.

Five Live posted a reach of 5.4m listeners, up from 4.97m for the last quarter, and a 3.4 per cent audience share over the period from January to March 2019.

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The BBC said it had seen an increase in the number of people listening to its radio content on digital platforms to more than half. It recently launched BBC Sounds, a new app and website for its radio and podcast content.

James Purnell, director of BBC Radio and Education, said: “I’m delighted listeners are discovering our much loved content however suits them.”

The BBC World Service audience fell to 1.48m (from 1.56m) while the corporation’s local radio stations grew their listeners slightly to 7.86m, up from 7.8m last quarter. Last year local radio reached 8.57m listeners.


Wireless, the commercial radio group owned by Rupert Murdoch, claimed record figures for both its Talksport and Talkradio stations.

The former, which includes Talksport 2, grew listeners by 5 per cent on the previous quarter to 3.3m.

Talkradio, whose presenters include Julia Hartley-Brewer and Matthew Wright, recorded 339,000 listeners for the first quarter of 2019, growing by 23 per cent in the last 12 months, according to RAJAR.

Wireless Group said Brexit’s dominance of politics was resulting in more listeners tuning in to Talkradio “to make sense of things”.

Chief executive Scott Taunton said: “Talksport is reaping the benefits of our award-winning live coverage of major sporting events – including our investment in cricket and football rights – and Talkradio is increasingly the destination for those looking to make sense of Brexit.

“With the backing of News UK, our growth strategy is ahead of expectations, with 1m more listeners joining Wireless in the last year. We’re delighted with this performance.”


LBC, part of Global Radio, achieved a “record high” of 2.3m weekly listeners, figures for the first three months of the year show, growing by 90,000 over the year.

Nick Ferrari’s breakfast show now has 1.3m listeners, his highest-ever audience numbers, the group said.

LBC claims to be the number one commercial radio station in London based on hours and audience share.

Eddie Mair, who joined LBC last year after leaving the BBC, has added more than 90,000 listeners to the Drivetime slot on the previous year with a weekly audience of 757,000.

Ashley Tabor OBE, founder and executive president of Global, said: “These figures from the Global portfolio signal our focus on reaching and engaging with listeners right across the UK.”

Weekly listeners for Jan-Mar 2019 (RAJAR):

Radio 4 – 11m
Radio 5 Live – 5.4m
BBC World Service (UK) – 1.48m
BBC local radio – 7.86m
(Radio 2 – 15.36m)

Talksport stations – 3.3m
Talkradio – 339k

LBC – 2.3m

Total: (excl. Radio 2) 31.6m

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