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Record listening figures for Radio 4: RAJARs Q2 2011

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Gwyneth Williams Gwyneth Williams 08:13, Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Rajar listening figures. A picture by Adam Bowie.

I am on holiday in Wales (glorious river noise, mountains and sun) and keep having to go up the drive to use the Blackberry so I had given our audience guru, Alison Winter, the land line to find me instantly with her quarterly much-awaited phone call bearing RAJAR data - RAJAR is the body that calculates and releases the official radio listening figures every quarter.

Sure enough - and right on the expected time - her expert tones delivered rather good news: new records all round for Radio 4 and 4 Extra. A record across all genres: news, drama and comedy.

Congratulations to brilliant programme-makers everywhere for this audience appreciation of your work. News records include Today, the World at One (which I am about to extend in length), PM and the Six O'clock bulletin. Eighty-seven per cent of Radio 4 listeners listen to some of our news output on a weekly basis. This is heartening.

I am most pleased, however, this time, with the Radio 4 Extra record of 1.6 million. This demonstrates that listeners are responding to the rich archive and additional programmes seductively put together by my colleague, Mary Kalemkerian, Radio 4 Extra's Head of Programmes, and her team.

And now, pay particular attention to the words of the audience research guru Alison Winter. Here she is to explain all:

Always good to be the bearer of good news and this quarter gave me that very opportunity. It was with some trepidation, though, that I opened the file detailing the latest radio listening figures, mindful of the "best ever" figures we reported last time round.

But these figures have surpassed them. 10.85m UK adults now listen to Radio 4 each week, nudging up from 10.83 last quarter and a good deal up from the figure we reported at this time last year, 10.4m. And Radio 4 listeners are incredibly loyal to the station too, tuning in for, on average, 12h 15m every week - an exceptional figure among those stations that broadcast to the whole of the UK.

As Gwyn points out above, this isn't the work of one or two programmes or even one particular genre. It's thanks to strong content across the board. In addition to the programmes already mentioned, Front Row, The Archers, Woman's Hour and You and Yours are examples of programmes that will be celebrating record figures today. Breakfast is a key time for radio listening and our own Today goes from strength to strength too, this time attracting 7.18m weekly listeners.

Speaking of audience, again we find increases across the board this time round: Radio 4 continues to do an admirable job of attracting both men and women in almost equal measure, and there are increases in the number of listeners across different ages.

And of course this was the first quarter that we saw figures for the newly-relaunched Radio 4 Extra, which is now the most listened to digital-only network.

The 1.6m figure mentioned above is up from 1.16m last quarter and, together with the record Radio 4 figure, points to a healthy appetite for speech radio of this kind.

Finally, to put all of this in context, we know, today, that more people than ever before are listening to the radio in the UK - 47.62 million of us to be exact. And we're listening for longer than ever, consuming over 1 billion hours of live radio every week.

So while there's good news for Radio 4, Radio 4 Extra and their listeners, the wider story is also of a radio sector that's still relevant and actually going from strength to strength.

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


  • Comment number 1.

    The Archers, Woman's Hour, and You and Yours always make me switch the Radio OFF straight away, but I did a lot of driving yesterday and I have to say there were some stellar programmes. Amanda Vickery's "Voices from the Old Bailey" on gay rights (or the lack of them), the Keynes vs Hayek debate, and "Human Kind" plus Roddy Doyle's short story "Animals" made the M25 much more bearable. I'm on a quiz team, and I swear that almost everything I know I get from Radio 4!

    But please - no more news! There must be six hours of news on Radio 4 every day already, and it is massively repetitive.

  • Comment number 2.

    I started listening to Radio 4 when Radio 2 became so bad. The Today show is excellant.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great news all round especially for BBC Radio 4 extra. I hear too that PM has increased to 4.4 Million.

    Well done Eddie!

  • Comment number 4.

    Well done, R4, but the big headline must be the astonishing figures for 4X (although cynics might argue this is a result purely of the 'power of the brand'!)

    Someone please reassure me that Ambridge Extra was not the prime cause...


  • Comment number 5.

    Although I congratulate the Radio 4 team on an excellent result, I am concerned with the intention to provide yet more news. There is already ample news available on line and on TV: where Radio 4 excels is in the other forms of entertainment/ information that it provides some of which are to be dropped or severely curtailed. I believe that programmes such as "Taking a Stand", some of the drama and shoirt stories slots are to suffer. As no similar programmes exist on the remainder of the BBC radio network, I would urge that these and similar programmes are protected.

  • Comment number 6.

    Well done Ms Williams, this is excellent news. I don't think I fit into your stereotypical R4 listener (I'm 19). However, I agree with Flyrite2, we have enough news as it is, and what I personally listen for is things like drama and short stories (and of course Woman's Hour).

  • Comment number 7.

    Congratulations to all. While nothing is beyond improvement please always remember that Radio 4 is a unique institution - there's nothing like it in anywhere else in the world. Such a big part of the lives of so many people. Good to see how much you all care about it.

  • Comment number 8.

    Congrats to Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra for doing so well in the dreaded ratings. As an American listener, I rely on both stations to keep my sanity against US television. I've loved recent programs like the readings of Constance Wilde's bio, Doctor Who tales back in spring and Dick Francis serials, and I'm always gone on Brother Cadfael. I urge you to come up with a way for foreign listeners to contribute to BBC. We'd like to play Sugar Mamas and Daddys to you if you'd set up a Pay Pal account or something. Again, congrats on the ratings. I know ya'll are wise enough not to take them too seriously. Love from Florida.

  • Comment number 9.

    Of course Radio 4 Extra is promoted much more on Radio 4 than BBC 7 ever was. So it wouldn't surprise me to see the listening figures up.

    Also, I don't think Radio 4 Extra has existed for three months so could some of these results still be attributed to BBC 7?

  • Comment number 10.

    TGG - R4X launched on 1 April, and thus a clear divide could be made in RAJAR terms between BBC7's Q1 (Jan to March) and R4X's Q2 (April to June).


  • Comment number 11.

    Thanks for that Russ,
    I think Radio 4 Extra is finding its way at last and after all it can only mine the same archives that BBC7 did.

    And for a variety of reasons it will mainly come from Radio 4 as that is the BBC primary speech station.

    What will affect R4x is how much archive material is available, whether it can be cleared rightswise and the budget the station is given to convert and clean up material that has not been heard for many years.


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