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Q4 2008

January 2009
The latest RAJAR results tell us something we already knew. When significant global news
events occur, people traditionall...
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'UK Radio Audience Trends: Q4 2008' by Grant Goddard


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Analysis of trends in ratings of and listening to UK radio stations, written by Grant Goddard in January 2009 for Broadcast magazine.

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Transcript of "'UK Radio Audience Trends: Q4 2008' by Grant Goddard"

  1. 1. UK RADIO AUDIENCE TRENDS: Q4 2008 by GRANT GODDARD January 2009
  2. 2. The latest RAJAR results tell us something we already knew. When significant global news events occur, people traditionally turn to radio because it offers them immediate and portable access to breaking stories. And so it was in the final quarter of 2008, which was filled with banking crises, retail closures, job losses and the US election. BBC Radio Four recorded its highest listening share ever (12.4%) and BBC Five Live its highest share in four years (4.8%). At a time when news provision in the print and TV media is under severe stress from diminishing usage, it seems remarkable that one eighth of all radio listening in the UK is to Radio Four, whose output remains dominated by news and current affairs. Every winner creates a loser, and so it was with commercial radio, whose focus on entertainment rather than news, and music rather than speech, contributed to its third worst listening share in the last decade (42.2%). Even in London, where commercial radio stations outnumber the BBC by a factor of three, Radio Four recorded an incredible 2.1% share increase year-on-year (to 17.5%), almost unprecedented in such a competitive radio market. The only morsel of good news for the commercial sector was the improved listening share of local commercial radio, up from an all-time low of 30.3% at the beginning of 2008 to 31.6% last quarter. Despite the positive spin today from some stakeholders, the underlying data tracking radio’s migration from analogue to digital listening makes grim reading. The huge, pre-Christmas marketing campaign broadcast on BBC and commercial radio to promote DAB led to a fall in listening via digital platforms from 18.7% the previous quarter to 18.3%. The BBC fared particularly badly, with listening via both DAB and the internet recording quarter-on-quarter declines. Sooner rather than later, the BBC Trust must be forced to ask whether the tiny audiences listening to its five digital-only stations launched in 2002 justify their costs. Commercial radio had to address this issue in 2008, resulting in the closure of seven digitalonly stations. However, overall, the results demonstrate that radio as a medium has a more certain future than some of its traditional competitors. Weekly reach is still 90% (45.5m adults) and users spend 22.3 hours per week listening to radio. The economic challenge, for both the BBC and the sector itself, is to keep commercial radio in business in 2009. That task will prove considerably tougher than simply keeping people listening. [Commissioned by Broadcast magazine. Unpublished.] Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at UK Radio Audience Trends: Q4 2008 ©2009 Grant Goddard page 2