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RAJAR round-up: Commercial up, except when it’s down

By | Published on Friday 15 May 2020


The RAJARs came out this week, and everyone’s like, ‘Hey, what’s up with the RAJARs?’ Well, I’ll tell you what’s up with the RAJARS. Commercial radio. But we’ll get to that.

These are the UK radio listening figures for the first three months of this year. As such, they only catch a little bit of lockdown, right at the end. So, the next set of RAJARs are going to be the really interesting ones this year. But right now, let’s look at five things that stand out in this first set of 2020 figures.

1. Overall radio listening is continuing to hold up well, according to RAJAR, with 90% of adults in the UK tuning in to some radio station or other every week. That’s 48.9 million people enjoying the warming tones of a good radio voice. Or, indeed, the grating tones of a bad one. Quality is not relevant here, only the fact that listening happened. On average though – grating voices or not – people were listening to an average of three hours a day and 22.2 hours a week.

2. Commercial radio had its best listening figures, like, evs. Those RAJAR bods reckon that 36.3 million were tuning in to non-BBC stations every week. Average listening time was up to thirteen hours a week, giving the commercial sector a 47.8% of all listening. Looking at listening just through digital means – DAB, online, apps – that was 61.6%.

3. Despite this, the two biggest UK commercial radio networks – Capital and Heart – saw their listening figures fall significantly over the last year. Heart lost 787,000, while Capital saw its listeners fall by 815,000. They still have over 7.5 million and 6 million listeners respectively (slightly more if you add in their spin-off stations), but that’s not a fun drop.

4. Those big commercial stations can take solace in the fact that the big bad BBC also had a tricky time. Overall listening to its stations fell 3.2% year-on-year, while commercial radio was up 3.6%. BBC Radio 6 Music did hit a record number of listeners though, so it’s not all bad. But it is mainly bad.

5. Going local, XS Manchester is doing quite well. This despite the fact that owner Communicorp has been quite keen to get rid of it. Last year, the media firm put in a request to OfCom to replace it with a new Manchester outpost for Capital Xtra, but the regulator refused at the beginning of last month. Prior to that decision, XS Manchester saw its listener figures jump by 40% to 131,000, compared to the same period in 2019. That doesn’t mean it’ll be saved 6 Music-style, but it does at least give it a better chance of survival.

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