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Rather fabulous - the Q1 Rajars are in

Thursday 12 May 2011, 01:01

Gwyneth Williams Gwyneth Williams

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The Rajar listening figures. A picture by Adam Bowie.

"Rather fabulous" - she really did say that a moment ago on the phone. I am referring to our Radio 4 audience guru, Alison Winter. It was a momentary lapse as she is, as you might expect when it comes to figures, well... measured... Thus you will gather that the first quarter RAJAR listening figures for Radio 4 are cheering: a record reach in fact of 10.8 million. This means that 10.8 million people have listened to Radio 4 for at least five minutes a week in the last three months. This time last year the figure was 10 million. So congratulations to all programme-makers.

The previous all-time highest reach of 10.4 million was in the second quarter last year. Our best guess then was that this was because of the general election and the interest that generated. There has been no general election this time so it could be that once those listeners found us we managed somehow to hang onto them. Perhaps instead they have become entranced with the Arab Spring and our coverage of the Middle East... Or perhaps they just love John Humphrys - reach to the Today programme was a record 7.03million.

Share for Radio 4 too is slightly up at 12.3 per cent which makes it broadly consistent with last year when it was 12.2 per cent. (Share is the proportion of all listening to all radio in the UK) I find this heartening as it means that people are continuing to listen to Radio 4 for rather a considerable length of time- in fact they listen for around twelve hours a week. Given the explosion of choice in the media and the seemingly relentless demands on our time this commitment from our audience feels significant and privileged.

Among specific audience groups, we now have more women listening to Radio 4 than ever before - 5.49 million every week (vs. just under 5.34 million men). There are high figures among our core, very loyal, older audiences but at the same time we have more under-35s listening to Radio 4 than at any point since 2003.

And then there is Radio 7, now transformed into Radio 4 Extra. Weekly reach there too is a record 1.159 million. These record figures are in tune with the trend for radio which is something to celebrate but my personal view is that the greatest value they bring is to give all of us at Radio 4 the confidence to set them aside and concentrate on making the best programmes we can for our cherished and discerning audience.

UPDATE 2pm, May 12th: I have more news on this record quarter - and all credit to Radio 4's production teams. We have record listening figures for the following: comedy programmes across the week (5.22 million), our drama throughout the week (7.1 million), The Archers (2.49 million for lunchtime listening and 5.01million across the week); You and Yours with 3.33 million - and along with her Sony Gold Special Award, Jenni Murray and the Womans Hour team can celebrate a record listening figure of 3.56million across the week.

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

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    Comment number 1.

    Notwithstanding a cold winter and no one going out much, yes, the R4 figures are good, and the Radio 7 ones even better. (Q2 figures for the latter, as the transformed R4X, will be very interesting.)

    I can't help thinking though the RAJAR base metric of 'at least five minutes a week' is a particularly blunt one for R4 - it could just be ten million lonely souls tuning into Sailing By. Please, let's have the figures for the Radio 4 top 100 programmes, in both linear and on-demand (non-linear) categories.

    And, hows about a programme about the RAJARs?


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    Comment number 2.

    Radio 4 listening figures will start a long and slow decline, after the BBC banning of all on-line discussions relating to radio. How come Paul Donovan, Gillian Reynolds………Miranda Sawyer haven’t written or investigated the reasons behind this ban? I bet Chris Dunkely would have supported listeners and demanded answers.

    There was an interesting article in yesterday’s Telegraph regarding the censorship that was imposed within certain sections pf Morrissey’s recent Front Row interview. Very sad………’Petticoat Line’ will probably be censored if it ever makes a re-appearance on ‘Radio New Trousers’ (with turn-ups). Should an aliceband wearing Cambridge girl trust a boy who rides a BSA Rocket 3, wears gauntlets and comes from Dundee?

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    Comment number 3.

    Gwyneth - do you have any data to show how much or how little people have been enjoying the Archers since 2 January? Many Archers listeners are addicted and find it impossible to give up, but many many many of us have been unhappy about the sensationalism used to 'celebrate' the 60th anniversary and are finding the aftermath depressing and miserable. Much has been written to this effect by the likes of Gillian Reynolds, and the programme became a laughing stock on other BBC programmes. Ambridge Extra has failed to be the stand alone programme that it was claimed to be. Any thoughts? How have you felt reading so much negative copy about the main programme and its spin off in the last few months?

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    Comment number 4.

    No reply today.

    Gwyneth - Dusty is not a lone voice, there are many, many listeners or exlisteners who feel let down by Q1 of The Archers and who resent the 'big lie' that Extra would not impinge on the 'real' programme's storylines.

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    Comment number 5.

    radio 7 had a record listening figure , please dont lump radio 4 extra in with that figure as 4 extra came after , we know the bbc are desperate to show it is working as a station but after reading all comments and writing a few on blog sites across the web it doesnt seem to be and from the 200+posted to the radio4 4 extra blogs not 1 was an out and out praise for the new station lets wait till the second quarter before we put any credence to the figures


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