diamond geezer

 Sunday, November 21, 2021

A lot of UK radio statistics
(using Q3 2021 RAJAR data)

Quarterly reach (% of the adult population)
All radio: 89%
All commercial radio: 66%
All BBC radio: 62%
BBC national radio: 57%
National commercial radio: 44%
Local commercial radio: 44%
BBC local radio: 16%

Nine out of ten adult Britons listen to the radio - not all of the time but at least some of the time - which is damned impressive given that so many alternative media are now available. Overall 66% of us listen to some form of commercial radio and 62% to the BBC (which means 40% of Britons listen to both, while approximately 25% stick to either one or the other). The BBC's national stations are much more popular than their local offering, whereas national and local commercial stations have roughly similar listenership.

Most listened-to commercial groups (by reach)
  1) Heart (18%) G
  2) Hits Radio (16%) B
  3) Capital (14%) G
  4) Smooth (11%) G
  5) Absolute (9%) B
  5) Classic (9%) G
  5) Kiss (9%) B
  8) Magic (7%) B
  9) LBC (5%) G
10) Virgin (4%)

Heart's adult contemporary playlist comes top, ahead of the Hits/Greatest Hits combo and the poppier Capital. Most of these stations were once local and independent but have been inexorably amalgamated into national services in recent years. Easy listening, classical and urban genres trail some way behind. The two big players in the commercial radio market are Global and Bauer (labelled above as G and B), who now own pretty much everything. Note that music stations are a lot more popular than speech (indeed only 5% of Britons sometimes listen to LBC, while talkRadio and Times Radio lag way behind at 1%).

The most played records over the last 10 years

Radio 1Radio 2Radio 6 Music
1) MK - 17
2) Disciples - On My Mind
3) Martin Solveig - Places
4) Panic! at the Disco - High Hopes
5) Sigma - Nobody to Love
6) French Montana - Unforgettable
7) Secondcity - I Wanna Feel
8) Martin Jensen - Solo Dance
9) Route 94 - My Love
10) M-22 - First Time
1) Pharrell Williams - Happy
2) Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk
3) The Human League - Don't You Want Me
4) Candi Staton - Young Hearts Run Free
5) The Killers - Human
6) OutKast - Hey Ya!
7) George Ezra - Shotgun
8) Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
9) Daft Punk - Get Lucky
10) Elbow - One Day Like This
1) Donna Summer - I Feel Love
2) Grimes - Genesis
3) Gloria Jones - Tainted Love
4) Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up
5) Marlena Shaw - California Soul
6) Althea & Donna - Uptown Top Ranking
7) Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
8) CSS - Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above
9) A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray
10) The Black Keys - Lonely Boy

These are very very different lists. I've been able to compile them via Last FM, a Noughties music service which tallied every track you listened to and which the BBC have been dutifully feeding ever since. Data is from 20th November 2011 - 20th November 2021.

All of Radio 1's most-played tunes are modern and I have to confess I don't recognise any of them. Radio 2's top 10 are much better-known singalong hits, and also relatively recent, indeed the only representatives of the 20th century are the Human League and Candi Staton. Radio 6 Music's most-played songs stretch much further back and are considerably more diverse. It's a measure of how much I've been listening to 6 Music recently that I knew Uptown Top Ranking would be in the top 10 even before I compiled the list.

BBC National Radio stations (by UK audience share)
  1) Radio 2 (16.2%)
  2) Radio 4 (12.1%)
  3) Radio 1 (5.3%)
  4) Radio 5 Live (3.5%)
  5) Radio 6 Music (2.7%)
  6) Radio 3 (1.6%)
  7) Radio 4 Extra (1.5%)
  8) Radio 5 Live sports extra (0.6%)
  9) Radio 1 Xtra (0.3%)
10) Asian Network (0.2%)

Radio 2 is comfortably the BBC's most popular station. Its audience share of 16% means that, on average, of all those listening to the radio in the UK one in six is tuned to Radio 2. Radio 4 also does really well with one in eight listeners, so is far ahead of those listening to any other speech-based station. Radio 1 has slumped somewhat since it was deliberately targeted at younger listeners, whereas 6 Music's listenership is up 50% on where it was just seven years ago. Radio 3 is easily outgunned by less highbrow classical stations, notably Classic FM which has three times the audience share.

BBC Local radio stations (by local audience share)

Highest shareLowest share
Ulster (19.9%)
Cornwall (16.0%)
Guernsey (16.0%)
Jersey (14.0%)
Shropshire (11.3%)
Devon (10.1%)
Derby (9.9%)
Merseyside (8.8%)
Cumbria (8.6%)
London (1.3%)
CWR (1.8%)
Wiltshire/Swindon (2.6%)
Kent (3.3%)
Cymru (3.3%)
Tees (3.4%)
WM (3.5%)
Manchester (3.5%)
York (3.7%)
Sussex/Surrey (3.9%)

Regionally speaking BBC Radio Ulster is the BBC's most successful local radio station, averaging 20% of the entire Northern Island listenership. Captive audiences in the Channel Islands are also very loyal. Of county-based stations Cornwall is the most impressive local success, followed up by Shropshire, Devon and Derby. BBC local radio tends to do less well in heavily urbanised areas with greater choice, indeed Radio London makes the least impression on its local audience (attracting just 1 in 80 of them). Birmingham and Manchester also appear in the lowest share list, whereas BBC Radio Merseyside bucks the trend (which suggests it's either really well targeted or else the competition in Liverpool isn't particularly strong).

Commercial radio stations (by local audience share)

Highest in BritainHighest in England
Island FM (34.1%)
Channel 103 (33.1%)
Radio Borders (30.3%)
Moray Firth Radio (27.8%)
West Sound (20.9%)
Manx Radio (19.8%)
Northsound 1 (17.8%)
Forth 1 (17.5%)
Clyde 1 (16.2%)
Greatest Hits Yorkshire Coast (15.9%)
Greatest Hits Yorkshire Coast (15.9%)
Heart 4 Counties Northants (12.6%)
Lincs FM (12.5%)
Isle of Wight Radio (11.7%)
Greatest Hits Dorset (11.7%)
Heart North Lancs & Cumbria (11.0%)
Greatest Hits West Sussex (11.0%)
Sun FM (10.2%)
Signal One (10.1%)
Hallam (10.0%)

Commercial radio's strongholds are island nations and Scotland. The two Channel Island commercial stations take a whopping one-third of the audience, as befits a world apart. Commercial stations based in Inverness, Ayr, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Borders also perform at least twice as well as BBC Scotland (whose overall reach is more like 7%).

The best performing English commercial station is based around Scarborough and Whitby (perhaps thanks to lingering loyalty to its properly-local station which was subsumed under the Greatest Hits banner last year). Northants and Lincolnshire are also more partial than most to their local commercial station, along with the more disparate counties of Dorset, West Sussex and Staffordshire. The bland umbrella services of Heart and Greatest Hits Radio haven't won out across the board just yet.

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