After a series of defeats, commercial radio has made a recovery and closed the listening gap with the BBC.
Data released this morning by radio measurement body Rajar show the number of people who regularly listen to a non-BBC radio station is at a four-year high, up four per cent year on year to 32m.
But the sector still has some way to go before it catches up with the BBC, which recorded its highest ever market share three months ago and is still significantly ahead of its commercial rival.
The BBC’s share of radio listening is now 54.3 per cent – down from a record 56 per cent in the last quarter. Commercial radio’s share has increased from 42.1 per cent to 43.5 per cent in the same period.
Andrew Harrison, the chief executive of commercial radio trade body the Radiocentre, said: “It is fantastic to see increases across the board for commercial radio. The national picture has never been in better health while locally the fightback is well underway.”
Although commercial radio is typically associated with music output, a number of developments in recent months have meant the sector is beginning to broaden its content and challenge the BBC’s dominance of speech radio.
In July, Channel 4 was awarded the licence to oversee the launch of 10 new digital radio stations, eight of which are due to launch next summer. They include a rolling news station from Sky and what is being dubbed as a younger, commercial rival to BBC Radio 4, which will provide documentaries, features and news.
Meanwhile, the Guardian Media Group has set up a £1m fund for independent radio producers in a bid to introduce new programming to its Real, Century and Smooth stations.