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The RAJARs are in

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Mark Damazer Mark Damazer 08:26, Thursday, 7 May 2009

RAJAR audience figures for Q1 2009

The RAJAR figures are a ritual.

Once every three months R4's Head of Audience Research (he does many other things too) phones up on a Wednesday evening and reels off a few key numbers for Radio 4 and Radio 7. The conversation lasts about 30 seconds - and we are both exaggeratedly laconic. Yesterday he began with "Quite good really" or words to that effect and then went on to say... "9.98million/12.5%/6.69 million/PM all-time high/everything up/Radio 7 984,000."

I said "That's OK then. And if we indulge ourselves by musing about rounding up to the next significant figure we get to 10 million for Radio 4... but we must not cheat." End of conversation.

I will decode - and all of what follows applies to the first three months of 2009.

9.98 million people per week listened to Radio 4 for at least 15 minutes per week. (This figure is called 'Weekly Reach'). This figure has been exceeded only once in the last ten years or so - during the Iraq war in 2003.

The average amount of listening per week of those 9.98 million is 12 hours and 50 minutes.(Radio 4 has the highest average weekly listening figure of the national stations). Radio 4 listening now accounts for 12.5% of all listening to all radio in the U.K - the highest figure since the current measuring system for radio listening was introduced over a decade ago.

Weekly Reach for Today is 6.69 million. That too is a very high figure and when Today's figures are strong it helps the overall R4 figure. PM's figures - 3.84 million and a 15.1% share - have never been better - or at least not since the new measurement system was introduced.

But it was not just News programmes that did well this quarter. Drama and Comedy for instance had a bumper quarter too. And Radio 7's weekly reach was its best yet at 984,000.

But - and it's a very big but indeed - RAJAR figures - whether up, down or sideways - do not tell the whole story about Radio 4 or Radio 7. Quality, range, distinctiveness, originality all matter and are not always reflected in the RAJAR figures. I remember one quarter a couple of years back where I thought we had transmitted some really outstanding programmes but the RAJAR figures were not particularly noteworthy. And - painful though it may be to admit - the reverse is also possible. But I hope not in this case.

The radio industry, unlike television (BARB) does not have overnight figures. Occasionally one yearns for evidence that a particular programme or piece of scheduling has reaped rewards - but on the whole the absence of the 'overnights' is a liberation. You can put in a greater number of 90 minute plays on Saturday afternoons - for instance - without instantly fretting about the impact on a particular Saturday afternoon's listening. One day the technology may allow for overnights in radio - and I can't deny that I would be reading them voraciously - but for the time being I enjoy not having them.

So it's been a good RAJAR quarter and I hope we have been delighting and stimulating you - but I am acutely aware that what goes up can come down - so we won't be spending the day awash with champagne.


  • Comment number 1.

    I have found myself listening more to Radio 4 of late. I know a lot of people get annoyed by the frequent broadcasting of trailers, but many of them have enticed me to listen to programmes that I would otherwise have missed. For example, I used always to switch over after the 7 pm news to Radio 3, but now I always wait to hear Mark Lawson tell what will be featured on Front Row at 7.15 pm. Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don't.

    I still listen to Radio 3, but the way Jazz Record Requests (JRR) gets kicked around the schedule and sometimes cancelled altogether is shocking. The RAJAR figures for Radio 3 increased from 1.98 to 1.99 million, but I have friends who have who have reduced their listening to the station because they do not know where they are with JRR.

  • Comment number 2.

    Can we bring the South Bank Show to Radio 4 ?

    With a PM style blog, it would be just as good as the telly programme, and the pictures would be much better.

    Just a thought..

  • Comment number 3.

    In reply to a comment made @ #2

    "Can we bring the South Bank Show to Radio 4 ?"

    Isn't there already at least one arts programme on R4, the problem with the "South Bank Show" is that it really relies on the visual, perhaps the BBC could (indeed should) offer to take over the SBS - such things have happened in the past, "What the Papers Say" springs to mind, if I remember correctly it's been transmitted on three networks (BBC, ITV and Ch4).

  • Comment number 4.

    I'd love to see The South Bank Show on the BBC. I did think it might conflict with the BBC's Imagine. But isn't that finished now?

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm a recent Radio 7 convert going back to the recent interview with the R7 controller on Feedback. What have I been missing all this time?

  • Comment number 6.

    I used to listen to R4 incessantly, via the website, generally on ListenAgain. Since the redesign, I have scarcely listened at all.

  • Comment number 7.

    I really miss my radio4 home page, I constantly listened in before, listened to podcasts, listened again, but I can't abide the newlook website, so my homepage is now BBC news, which has the familiar friendly look radio4 site used to have...and the News headlines!
    I've tuned in on the off chance, to see if you might have taken on board so many of the adverse comments and made some changes to the horrible new design...sadly no, so I probably won't bother to return again.

  • Comment number 8.

    I totally agree with #6 and #7 and have stopped even trying to navigate the new site. Very depressed to read that the 'big pictures' are here to stay in spite of their unpopularity. Radio 4 was my sanity away from the drivel of television and radio here in the U.S. Please make it easier to find SOMETHING worth listening to.

  • Comment number 9.

    Just agreeing with a couple of people below - great that the RAJAR figures are up but personally since the redesign of the radio 4 website I now listen for about 1 hour a week compared to 4 plus hours per week before.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have been airing my views on the other blogs. However, I now just want to agree wholeheartedly with the above and thank goodness there are so many others who feel like me. We have been ignored, as I knew we would be right from the start. Totally unhappy and depressed with the arrogance of the BBC over those dreadful, dreadful 'big pictures'. Maybe we can just hope that one day those responsible for this terrible website will see the error of their ways.

  • Comment number 11.

    It's a good job the figures don't include website visits, or they might tell a very different story. Remind me, why was it changed..?

  • Comment number 12.


    "Remind me, why was it changed.."

    Because they can! :~(

  • Comment number 13.

    I have just tried to listen to 4StandsUp and the News Quiz, but as usual,the message 'this doesn't seem to be working. Please try again later'. Well, this is probably the 10th time, and just as many days that I have tried. What am I doing wrong? Is it because I live in France,don't pay my radio license, and the BBC have cunningly worked out a way that doesn't allow people living abroad to access Listen Again? Could you please tell me if this is so, and I will stop trying. Thanks.

  • Comment number 14.

    @realplayerclare I'm not seeing any problem with the latest episodes of the two programmes you're trying to listen to so I'm going to suggest that you take a look at this iPlayer support page, which is actually quite useful. You might find this forum useful too. There's no cunning plan to exclude people living abroad, honestly! But non-UK listeners do sometimes get a different service: the Flash-based iPlayer doesn't work outside the UK so unless a programme is available in RealMedia format you won't be able to listen. This shouldn't be affecting you now, though.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 15.

    I totally agree with #6, #7, #8, #9 and #10
    When will the madness end.. this is reminding me
    of the Poll tax debacle.. or better still how the
    old London Transport would put up the fares to
    keep the numbers riding the Tube down.

    If only Radio4 didn't have such a great product!

    1700+ have voted.. and 90%+ agree the new design
    is driving them nuts.


    Let those in control keep patting each other on the back reassuring
    each other what a wonderful job they are doing...

  • Comment number 16.

    I disagree with all the comments that poo-poo the new site design. I think the design team have done a tremendous job. They've lifted the site out of the late 1990's, and made everything a lot easier to find and use.

    The moaners will always make more noise than those that quietly appreciate. This is especially true when it comes to radically new web designs. Some users will always need to overcome the bad design that they had became accustomed to and 'relearn' where to find things.

    Back on topic: I find it hard to believe that you don't have stats for your web listeners. I read somewhere that online radio is growing fast. Given my consumption that doesn't surprise me.

    Web Designer

  • Comment number 17.

    That is fine for those who are Web Designers and understand their way around websites and all the jargon. For those of us who do not really understand what a widget is I can assure you it is pretty hard and frustrating. So much so that those of us who are not technowizards give up.

  • Comment number 18.

    When I was at school, Mark, my maths teacher made us listen to Radio 4. Perhaps you could get more younger people to listen to 4 by broadcasting something which might be useful, or even entertaining, for classes. Then you might break through the ten million, nay, the hundred million barrier. What is radio 4, after all, Mark, if not to listen? All the best, c (and the gang).



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