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Arthur Perkins
Arthur Perkins
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Implications of the latest RAJAR figures for broadcast PR

Arthur Perkins
Arthur Perkins
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Latest RAJAR figures reveal interesting trends across the UK

The latest RAJAR figures are out and it’s good news for breakfast shows.

For those of you not in the know, RAJAR stands for Radio Joint Audience Research and it’s the official body in charge of measuring radio audiences in the UK. The organisation is jointly owned by the BBC and Radiocentre, on behalf of the commercial sector. 

The RAJAR Audio Survey is designed to provide context and insight into how, when and where audio content is being consumed within this recently liberated environment. The figures include information on device usage, activities, location and listeners. Podcasts, live and catch up radio and on-demand music services are all wrapped up in the numbers. 

London reach drops

The main headlines see the total reach drop more significantly in London over the past 12 months than across the rest of the UK. Total UK radio audiences were down 0.9% in Q4/18 compared with Q4/17.

In the capital the drop was 3.9% – with some stations losing hundreds of thousands of listeners. Regardless of this, 88% of the population listen to the radio at some point each week (48.4 million people). 

Gregg James bucks the BBC trend

More than 230,000 extra listeners have been tuning in to the Radio 1 Breakfast Show since Greg James took over from Nick Grimshaw in August 2018. According to RAJAR, his reach in the last three months of 2018 was 5.1 million. Up on the 4.8 million recorded between July and September. Overall, Radio 1 saw its listenership decrease, dropping from 9.6 million in the third quarter of 2018 to 9.37 million in the fourth. 

The bad news for BBC reach continued with BBC Radio 4 which has lost three-quarters of a million listeners in the last year. Figures for the final three months of 2018 show the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs station reached 10.5 million Britons a week, down 750,000 on the same period last year. BBC Radio 5 Live lost 10% of its audience in the last 12 months and is now listened to by fewer than 5 million people a week. 

Record LBC audience

At the same time, the commercial talk radio station LBC achieved its highest audience in its 46-year history, reaching 2.2 million listeners a week as they tuned in to more opinionated programming from the likes of Nick Ferrari, James O’Brien and Nigel Farage. 

The figures clearly highlight the challenges the BBC is up against at a time when commercial rivals are paying big money to lure away its stars. The UK’s three major commercial radio networks are investing heavily in new, digital-only outlets. This is in the belief that the proliferation of digital radios and smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo will encourage people to try new stations. As a result, the BBC’s share of total radio listening has slipped to 50.9%. The long-term decline suggests the corporation could be overtaken by the commercial sector at some point in the next year. 

The BBC’s director of radio, James Purnell, has previously said he ‘was not concerned with such metrics and was instead focusing on developing the audience for the much-criticised BBC Sounds app and ensuring its output was relevant to the next generation through increased investment in podcasting and online audio.’ 

The battle of local radio

At a local level, there will be interesting developments still to come. The BBC has recently announced plans to take regional radio in a new direction. BBC Local Radio collectively reached 7.79 million listeners per week. That is down from 7.84 million last quarter and 8.2 million last year.

In local commercial radio, the past week has seen Bauer Media make big moves with the purchases of Lincs FM Group and Celador Radio. Bauer Media also brought Wireless Group’s regional radio network.

These acquisitions will leave many hotly anticipating the next move for local radio and what Global may do in response. No doubt it will also leave Wireless Group to invest in existing national outlets talkSPORT, talkSPORT2, talkRADIO and Virgin Radio. 

What this means for Broadcast PR

So what does this mean for broadcast PR? Whilst overall figures appear damaging for BBC radio, it doesn’t make bad reading for the radio industry as a whole. The overall figures are still incredibly strong – with nearly 50 million people still tuning in each week. If anything, it is an exciting time for the PR industry as the opportunity for quality coverage is greater than ever. National commercial opportunities are at an all-time high; the demand for good quality content on the BBC’s regional network is still there; and smaller commercial stations continue to have a healthy appetite for PR content.    

In when it comes to a radio day, it all depends what is going to make a client happy. For some it is reach, for others communication of key messages. Our typical agenda will include a minimum of 10-12 guaranteed opportunities, 1-2 of which are likely to be national. This is still extremely achievable in the current radio landscape.   

If you want to find out anymore about how you can achieve success on broadcast or for more information about radio days check out www.shoutcommunications.co.uk or gives us a call on 0207 240 7373.  



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