Radio Listening Trends in the UK: Rajar Q2 2018

The latest set of figures from Rajar, which monitors UK radio listening, has revealed that while radio news listeners have fallen, music shows have experienced a boost.

Influence of News Agendas

BBC Radio 4’s flagship programme- Today- lost nearly a million listeners from Q2 last year to the same period this year, while 5 Live Breakfast was also down 337,000.

The BBC said a quieter news agenda in the second quarter of this year was partly to blame. Last spring saw a snap general election, the Grenfell Tower fire and three terrorist attacks in the UK boosting figures.

At the opposite end of the radio spectrum to breakfast news, music and entertainment shows are enjoying a rise in popularity.

Compared with spring 2017, Absolute’s breakfast show added 306,000 listeners, while Kiss Breakfast with presenter Rickie, Melvin and Charlie went up by 42,000.

Capital, while still holding the title for most listened to breakfast show in London, isn’t celebrating just yet, as it saw listener figures fall compared to last year, with Roman Kemp’s breakfast show losing 53,000 listeners.

The Year of the Underdog?

It’s not just breakfast shows that are seeing a healthy rise. Specialist music stations are also recording annual increases.

Capital Xtra for example, recorded its highest ever audience of 1.8 million, while Radio X went up to 1.7 million weekly listeners. The BBC’s R&B and hip hop station Radio 1Xtra was also recording healthy figures with 1.03 million listeners – up on both the year and the quarter.

Regional stations have also enjoyed an increase. Yorkshire Coast Radio has increased to 59,200, its biggest reach since it started. In fact its weekly audience has been growing by 25% year-on-year.

The JACK FM brand in Oxford (all three stations together) now has more listeners than the local Heart station which given the dominance of the Heart brand overall is quite a coupe.

It’s a Cheers for Commercial 

Most of the Capital regional stations have grown their weekly reach this quarter, however Capital Yorkshire – formerly the biggest commercial station outside London – is down from 1.050m to 951,000. Capital Liverpool achieve its highest weekly reach in three year, adding 41,000 listeners this quarter taking their weekly reach to 252,000.

Things were looking good at Bauer too, with their networks growing from 3% to reach 17.7m people. The Hits Radio brand launched with a 6.5m listeners, while the following so big increases: Absolute Radio (up 20.9% to 2.54m), Magic Network (up 6.8% to 3.88m) and Kisstory (up 16.7% to 2.02m).

The Heart network of stations, has seen a weekly rise this quarter in the likes of Scotland, Solent, South Wales and Sussex. However, it’s not looking as healthy in London, North West and Yorkshire.

Unfortunately, things aren’t going smoothly for the Smooth network with most local stations having seen a decrease in weekly reach, including Essex, East Midlands and London. Smooth Thames Valley takes the biggest drop from 38,000 to 18,000 in three months. Smooth stations on the up including North East, North West (still the biggest commercial station outside London), South Wales, West Midlands and Sussex.

BBC Local Still Lagging

BBC Local Radio overall falls to a reach of 7.87 million listeners per week – that’s down from 8.57m last quarter and 8.63m last year. The worst hit include the BBC’s local stations in Yorkshire. Radio Leeds (164k) and Radio Humberside (148k) recorded their lowest reaches ever, while Radio Sheffield (184k) and Radio York (72k) posted their second-worst.


That’s it for another quarter but the things that stand out from this round up, include:

BBC local radio needs to up its game to up its figures

Sometimes we’d prefer to listen to Little Mix than hear who else has left the cabinet

Don’t underestimate the ‘secondary’ stations, you know, the ones with X’s at the start of their names- they will soon outdo their pretty, more intelligent older sister.

Yorkshire is busy doing other things than listening to local radio

Check out our infographic below: 

Rajar Infographic

Infographic: July Highlights at 4media group4media group Highlights October 2018