Rajar: Downturn is good news for Radio 4 and Today

The global economic crisis and the US presidential elections have helped Radio 4 and the Today programme to their highest listening figures in more than six years.

The BBC speech network recorded an average weekly audience of 9.812 million in the last quarter of 2008, up 5.6 per cent year on year, according to official data from Rajar published this morning.

This is its highest weekly reach since the first quarter of 2003, when the station posted an audience of 10.034 million.

In London, Radio 4 added an extra 301,000 listeners in London – up 12.4 per cent year on year to 2.72m listeners – cementing its position as the most listened-to station in the capital.

Radio 4's flagship morning news programme, Today, achieved its best listening figures since 2001, up eight per cent year on year to 6.598 million.

BBC director of audio and music Tim Davie said: "This quarter's figures are good news for the radio industry, the BBC and particularly Radio 4.

 

"Radio 4 plays a unique role in the country's cultural and news agenda and these results reflect its influential place in British life."

BBC Radio Five Live's audience fell 1.4 per cent year on year to 5.993 million in the last three months of 2008, with a sharper decline of seven per cent among the London audience, down to 1.215 million.

Average weekly listening to the Five Live breakfast show, which was extended by an hour to 10am this month, fell by 1.8 per cent to 2.291 million.

Five Live's loss was commercial rival TalkSport's gain. The station recorded its highest-ever weekly reach, up 2.6 per cent year on year to 2.515 million.

"We have consistently invested in TalkSport – whether that be in our on-air talent or our sports rights and coverage," said TalkSport chief executive Scott Taunton.

London rolling news station LBC News 1152, which often sees sharp fluctuations in its audience figures, was up 50 per cent year on year with a reach of 327,000.

Sister station LBC 97.3's London audience fell 1.9 per cent year on year to 630,000.

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