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August 2, 2018updated 03 Aug 2018 11:36am

BBC Radio 4 Today programme loses 800,000 listeners after record high last year, new RAJAR audience figures show

By Charlotte Tobitt

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme has lost 800,000 listeners since last year, according to the latest RAJAR audience figures.

The BBC has attributed the 10.5 per cent drop to its listenership stabilising after a busy news period last spring, including a snap general election, the Grenfell Tower fire disaster and terror attacks in Manchester and London.

The Today programme, edited by Sarah Sands since early 2017, had 7m weekly listeners between 2 April and 24 June this year – down from a record 7.82m in the same quarter last year.

It had 7.22m listeners in the previous quarter, according to RAJAR figures shared by the BBC.

BBC Radio 4 had an overall weekly reach of 10.6m, down from 11.55m last year, and a share of 11.7 per cent, down from 12.3 per cent last year.

BBC 5 Live, the broadcaster’s other main current affairs station, also lost listeners. It went from 5.32m last year to 4.73m in 2018.

The station’s breakfast programme, hosted by Nicky Campbell – the BBC’s second highest earner according to the latest salary disclosures – was down 337,000 listeners, which the BBC also blamed on a quieter news agenda.

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The BBC had a slightly lower share of the national radio market overall at 51.7 per cent, down from 51.9 per cent last quarter and 52.3 per cent last year, and a smaller weekly reach at 34.4m compared to 35.01m last quarter and 34.9m last year.

BBC local radio lost around 700,000 listeners in the past year, going from 8.63m in April to June last year to 7.87m listeners over the same period this year.

The BBC World Service had a weekly UK audience of 1.51m, up from last quarter (1.43m) but down from last year (1.59m).

The only BBC stations to see year-on-year listener growth were 6 Music, Asian Network, Radio 2 and Radio 1Xtra.

LBC said it now reaches 2.1m listeners each week, up 3 per cent year-on-year from 2.04m in the same period last year.

Nick Ferrari’s breakfast show reaches 1.1m listeners every week and James O’Brien, on air between 10am and 1pm, now reaches 943,000 listeners every week, up 4 per cent year-on-year, the station said.

News UK’s radio arm, Wireless Group – which broadcasts Talkadio and Talksport – now reaches 4.6m adults over the three-month period, who spend more than an hour a day listening on average.

The group shared RAJAR figures showing an 8 per cent growth in reach year-on-year.

Talksport grew its audience to 2.9m listeners, up 10 per cent on last year. Overall Saturday and Sunday audiences are up 22 per cent year-on-year.

Talkradio saw a 9 per cent increase in reach with 294,000 listeners tuning in for 1.3m hours – an increase of 28 per cent on last year.

At Wireless’ local stations, listeners now spend over 9.2m hours tuning in each week.

Scott Taunton, Wireless chief executive, said: “The opening ten days of World Cup action is included in the strong Talksport performance – a welcome addition given that it was a relatively quiet football period with the Premier League title decided well before the season ended.

“Across the board we’ve grown in hours and reach – no mean feat. We continue to improve the schedules and our proposition, while working closely with our colleagues from across the News UK portfolio.”

The Scottish Sun, which launched three music radio stations in January, celebrated today as Scottish Sun Hits, Scottish Sun 80s and Scottish Sun Greatest Hits reached a combined 13,000 weekly listeners.

Richard Bogie, managing director of News Scotland and News Ireland, said: “We are delighted with these figures, which show significant early success from a standing start at the New Year.

“We are focused on continuing to build the audience, and the fact that listeners are tuning on for six hours a week on average indicates that we have a strong base from which to keep growing…

“Scottish Sun radio is a growing part of our strategy, and the increasing reach of our brands across platforms is creating excellent new opportunities for commercial partners.”

Picture: BBC

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