Cooke: core news agenda
BBC radio will face new competition in Scotland next year from a commercial rival that is already challenging the corporation’s position in South Wales.
Guardian Media Group-owned Real Radio, which launched in South Wales last year, now attracts a weekly audience of 264,000 and has increased its reach from 18 to 19 per cent, according to the latest figures released by Rajar.
BBC Wales’s weekly audience is now 429,ooo, up 12,000 on last year’s figure for the same quarter.
But bosses at BBC Wales have privately acknowledged that its recent revamp of the station’s schedules is an attempt to shore up its audience in the face of competition from Real Radio.
BBC Scotland currently attracts a weekly audience of 979,000 and has an 8.7 per cent share. Its current commercial rivals include Scot FM, which attracts 201,000 listeners each week in the East and 242,000 in the West, giving a weekly reach of 6.9 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively.
The new station is due to launch in January next year and will take in the central belt of Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh.
GMG also plans to launch its "entertaining speech service" in Yorkshire in the spring.
Meanwhile, BBC Ulster has increased its lead, with its audience up by more than 100,000 on the same quarter last year.
More than 580,000 adults, or four in 10 of the population, now tune in and the station has achieved a share of almost a quarter of all listening.
Tim Cooke, head of broadcasting for BBC Northern Ireland, said that part of the news, current affairs and music station’s appeal was those who were interested in politics, wanting local information or to "send in a request for their granny".
"News and current affairs are central to our schedules and strengthen and underpin everything that we do," said Cooke.
"There is a very great appetite for news and analysis, and our greatest strength is that we reflect the news agenda internationally, nationally and locally, and people do regard it as their station."
Radio 4, London’s most popular speech radio service, has increased its weekly audience from 9.2 million to 9.3 million in the past year, although the figure has dipped slightly since June last year.
The weekly audience for the BBC’s local station, London Live, is 355,000, and a 0.8 per cent share of listeners.
ITN’s stations in the capital, ITN News Direct 97.3 FM and LBC 1152 AM, each attracted weekly audiences of more than 410,000.
By Julie Tomlin