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RAJAR listening figures for Q3 2011

Thursday 27 October 2011, 14:20

Gwyneth Williams Gwyneth Williams

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The Rajar listening figures. A picture by Adam Bowie.

Yesterday on my way out of Broadcasting House to have lunch with Libby Purves, I met George Soros in the lift - he had just been a guest on Stephanie Flanders' new series Stephanomics. Before I left the office I listened back to Umberto Eco (what a voice; what books) interviewed for Front Row with Kirsty Lang.

Midweek included Terry Wogan (and he sang); last week Michael Morpurgo told Libby that he first got to see his real father on TV playing Magwitch in Great Expectations; and the week before featured a hero of mine (and Libby's it turns out), Albie Sachs, the former high-court judge and an architect of the South African constitution.

Oh, and if you haven't heard them already, don't miss Stephen Fry and Daniel Digby as Marengo and Copenhagen - the war horses of Napoleon and Wellington - in Warhorses of Letters which started this week.

Our Rajar figures are 10.55m - up by some 187k when compared with last year, although down on last quarter's record of 10.85m. It's worth noting that this quarter includes the summer hols in which listening often dips. Share is 12 per cent - up slightly compared with this time last year when it was 11.8 per cent, but again down on last quarter which was 12.4 per cent (share is about the share of listening to all radio that Radio 4 enjoys).

The average hours that listeners spend tuned to Radio 4 each week is up a tad this quarter and up some 19 minutes on the year at 12 hours and 17 minutes.

So on average ten and a half million people listen to Radio 4 for over twelve hours a week.

Oh and a small record or two - for Woman's Hour Drama, the Afternoon Play, as well as You and Yours - and FOOC on Saturday has done particularly well.

Radio 4 Extra's reach is much the same as last quarter at 1.52m (it was 1.53m). It is significantly higher than last year - up 46 per cent. Share is a record 0.9 per cent and total hours spent with the station each week hit a record of 9 million+, thanks to average time spent per listener of just over 6 hours. We hope this means that listeners have now found some programmes they enjoy on Radio 4 Extra and are staying with us to listen to them.

Congratulations to everyone who has contributed to the last three months of programmes.

Our audience guru, Alison Winter, tells me that on Radio 4 and 4 Extra we are seeing a pattern of long term growth. She said she would add a few lines to this note from me for those who might prefer to go to the tutored source as it were.

Alison Winter writes:

"You may recall seeing the headlines 3 months ago when Radio 4 enjoyed a record audience of 10.85m, riding on the tide of good news for radio that saw more people (47.6m, 15+) listening to more radio (just over 1 billion hours every week) than ever before.

So, as we pondered what the results for Q3 might have in store we expected to see a decline, given that Q3 includes the summer months of July and August, when normal routines can be disrupted and people are apt to spend more time out of the home and workplace. And indeed most radio stations have seen declines on the quarter, Radio 4 being no exception. But there is also a pattern of longterm growth as audiences are, by and large, higher than they were a year ago. In the case of Radio 4, the weekly audience has remained above 10 million (with only one exception) since mid-way through 2009, routinely attracting 1 in 5 of the UK population every week.

Gwyn has already highlighted some of the particularly good performances across the network this time round but another one I've found is the relative strength of DAB as a listening platform among Radio 4 listeners: as much as 26% of all Radio 4 listening is through DAB, versus the industry average of 18%. Maybe this explains the good news for 4 Extra, maintaining almost all of those who tuned in last quarter as it launched, and reaching record hours of listening each week."

Gwyneth Williams is Controller of BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 4 Extra

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    The current Radio 4 service licence[1] states:

    “Radio 4 should facilitate and support the growth of communities of interest around its output and enable them to interact with programmes and with each other online.”

    Radio 4 has closed down all its programme related messageboards and there is no medium for listener interaction. The Radio 4 blog cannot be defined as an interactive medium’, because a) the contributors rarely – if ever – respond to comments b) the topics are deliberately closed after a short period of time and they cannot be tracked.

    My questions: Why hasn’t the BBC Trust updated the Radio 4 service licence such that it is an accurate reflection of the station’s broadcasting policy?

    Second, you will be aware that The Archers hosts nine messageboards, why is this when serious Radio 4 listeners cannot even secure one messageboard for on-line programme related discussions?

    Third, the BBC has banned all on-line radio related discussions (and I have informed the Sunday Times radio critic, Mr Paul Donovan, of this measure), can you explain the rationale behind this and did you contribute to the decision?

    I look forward to reading your response on this blog.


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/regulatory_framework/service_licences/radio/2011/radio4_feb11.pdf February 2011 p5

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    #1 Hello Lawrence Jones

    I had a chat with Leigh Aspin, Radio 4's interactive editor, and he said that the most useful reply would be the one that he made previously when it was announced that the Radio 4 messageboards would be closed. The reply can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbradio4/NF2766774?thread=8131855

    I've also posted the text of Leigh's message below.

    I hope that helps,

    best wishes

    Paul Murphy

    Leigh Aspin, Radio 4's interactive editor, from Wednesday, 23rd March 2011:

    To all our messageboard users

    I’m the editor of the Radio 4 and Radio 7 websites and I’m writing with what will be sad news for some loyal messageboard users: we will be closing the Radio 4 and Radio 7 messageboards (with the exception of The Archers) at the end of this month.

    As you may be aware from recent news reports, BBC Online’s budget is being cut significantly and, with fewer people in my team, I’m having to review our activity and prioritise those services which attract greater audience numbers and offer the greatest editorial value.

    It is a fact that, after many years, these messageboards attract a very small number of users. In the case of Radio 4’s messageboard, only around 350 different people post in a month and fewer than 3000 people worldwide visit the messageboards (this out of an average of 1m weekly visitors to our website in January).

    And with only a couple of exceptions, the comments posted on these boards do not tend to feed into programming or other output. Where particular programmes have used the messageboards for on air content (eg Questions, Questions) we will be able to offer dedicated comments threads linked to from their programme pages. The Archers messageboard will remain for the time being.

    We will continue to develop other ways for Radio 4’s audience to engage with the station’s output, as we have with some success during the last year. Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra will share the current Radio 4 blog from 2 April. We plan to increase the range of contributors and as ever we will welcome comments there. We will offer specific, programme-related comments threads where we can. We are planning a number of interactive initiatives around upcoming Radio 4 series and events. And we will continue to engage with you via our newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter profiles.

    The closure will take place on Friday 1 April, to give you time to close existing conversations and, if you desire, make plans to regroup elsewhere on the web. I realise this will be a disappointment to some of you but I hope that you will continue to engage with us in other ways from April.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    My question was addressed to Ms Williams – and as you’ll be well aware I didn’t need the reference that you supplied. The reasons the numbers dwindled was because R4 – and associated R4 personnel – refused to give the boards any support. Additionally, Feedback refused to address the complaints and as you’ll well remember, the closure was announced just as Feedback was about to go off the air. You will, of course, be well aware that Radio 4 did exactly the same thing when the Today boards were closed and when the DID board was closed (April 15th 2003).

    You’ll recall, how Gavin Allen[1] – deputy editor of Today at the time - admitted to Roger Bolton on Feedback that he hadn’t even looked once at the Today boards until just before his interview with Mr. Bolton. This was also case for the majority of Radio 4 producers and editors. How do I know this? The answer: over the 11 - 12 years that I contributed to R4 boards, Anna MC used to devote significant amounts of her time informing the above about discussions relating to programmes associated with them. It was once in a blue moon that a response would be received. If you require further proof, I can provide you with the references on both the Drama and Arts messageboards where contributors were pleading for some input from R4 personnel. How many postings did Mr. Aspin place – I can recall just two.

    Honestly Mr. Murphy, you must think that I am a total idiot – and I still await Ms. Williams’ response.

    Dr. Lawrence Jones


    [1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2006/11/todays_messageboards_part_2_1.html


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