Community radio listening figures - do 10 million people tune in every week?

What is the total audience of community radio in the UK?

By James Cridland
Posted 21 January 2015, 9.33am est
Jonathan Creaser

How many people tune in to community radio in the UK?

You might have heard a figure that "10m people tune into community radio every week". Radio presenter Duncan Barkes quoted it recently, and it's also made its way to the community radio mailing list, where people are using it in relation to tomorrow's expected announcements about the Community Radio Order.

Community radio is going well in the UK, and many stations sound great and add a real benefit to the community that they serve. However, repeat a figure often enough, and it becomes the truth: which would be a shame, because it's not true.

The figure comes from an Ofcom report into community radio from 2011.

This document says, in paragraph 2.26:

Based on our computer modelling of population data and signal reception, we estimate that close to 10.5 million adults (just over 12.5 million people in total) are able to receive a community radio station broadly aimed at them

So, the 10m figure is based on "people who can receive if they wanted to", rather than "people who tune in".

If everyone who could pick up a community radio station tuned in, then you could say "10.5m people tune into community radio every week". Except they don't.

So, what's the real figure?

Community radio isn't in RAJAR; but RAJAR does measure all radio listening in the UK. If you don't pay for RAJAR, you're still in the figures - but lumped into a figure marked "Other radio". So, when audiences are told how to fill their diary in, they are asked to put all radio listening that doesn't go into a specific station's column as "other radio".

"Other Radio" could include pirate radio, internet radio from overseas, small commercial stations who aren't in RAJAR, and things that people think are called radio but aren't really. On a national level, though, this figure is amazingly reliable; it's a national sample size of over 100,000 adults.

"Other Radio" currently has a weekly listenership of 3.8m adults a week.

Only 17% of the total UK population can pick up community radio, according to the same Ofcom report we mentioned earlier. So, if we're charitable, and we assume that "Other Radio" is just all community radio listening if you can pick one up, and nothing else - a vast over-estimation, but worth a punt - then the entire national community radio audience is 646,000 people.

I'd think it not unreasonable to claim than half a million people tune into community radio in the UK. Community radio has grown in coverage and professionalism since 2011. But, whatever the number is, it certainly isn't ten million. lists all RAJAR public figures, like BBC Radio 2's. Just search for a station and click the total audience figure.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.