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Commercial radio records highest ever audience

From a press release to news@media.info
Posted 3 February 2016, 7.01pm est

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UK commercial radio stations have reported their highest ever audience, overtaking the BBC for the first time in 15 years according to new listening figures released by RAJAR for Q4 2015.

The combined reach of commercial stations was 35.1m, helped by significant year-on-year growth to national networks like Capital and Kiss as well as strong performances in key local markets.

The combined audience for BBC services was 34.9m.  The last time that the BBC reported fewer listeners than commercial radio was Q4 2000, well before the impact of Chris Moyles on broadening the appeal of Radio 1 and the growth in Radio 2’s younger audience.

However time spent listening to the BBC is still greater than commercial broadcasters.  BBC stations account for a 53.5% market share of listening hours compared to 44.1% for commercial radio.

Radiocentre CEO Siobhan Kenny said:

“Commercial radio stations offer an amazing range of choices for listeners and advertisers.  It is great to see this reflected in record audiences.

The next few months will see an even greater expansion of content with 18 new national digital stations being launched, providing a genuine alternative to the BBC across all kinds of music and speech radio and for audiences of all types.”

More information

Radiocentre
Sound, Commercial, Sense.

Comments

1 year, 9 months ago

So perhaps now the Radio Centre will stop going on about the "privileged position" the BBC has and how they should be allowed to compete with them on a "level playing field"; or whatever.

Well, at least until next time the figures are the other way around.

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

So, guaranteed income, the lion's share of FM frequencies, and unlimited television advertising is OK, then? I think the Radiocentre's right to continue putting pressure on the BBC.

1 year, 9 months ago

"So, guaranteed income, the lion's share of FM frequencies, and unlimited television advertising is OK, then?"

Absolutely it is, for a Public Service Broadcaster. Of course, they don't have "unlimited television advertising" at all. They have a couple of minutes every hour; not 9-12 (avg) like commercial stations.

1 year, 9 months ago

I think James's point is that BBC Radio has unlimited advertising and cross promotion across BBC TV, which does put them at a very unfair advantage.

1 year, 9 months ago

Which they do very minimally; no more than 2-3 mins per hour. If commercial radio want to just do 3 mins. of ads. per hour they could do that.

Plus there are two or three national commercial services that can advertise anything they like nationally.

I've actually heard the same songs in the same order on two different stations from the same (commercial) broadcaster. Talk about lazy programming.

1 year, 9 months ago

Not to mention, of course that (as I'm sure James is aware) the BBC's "guaranteed funding" has seen a real-terms reduction of some 50% since 2010.

1 year, 9 months ago

BBC Commissioning will tell you all you need to know there. Programming hour's on BBC1 and BBC2 are 59 minutes, which means just 1 minute of promotional activity time per hour. BBC4 is the same, only BBC3 is any different because a programming hour there lasts 58.5 minutes.

I don't exactly about BBC Radio, but I think the same basic idea applies, no more than 1 minute per hour of promotional activity. So to say that BBC has unlimited promotional time is ridiculous.

In fact right now, it is notable that US television is looking right now at cutting their commercial load down, because viewers prefer, surprise surprise, less commercial interruptions, than the current load. The availability of services like Netflix which do not have commercial breaks, has really hurt US commercial TV. I'm thinking that ITV will eventually cut back their break times, to a pattern of lesser commercial interruptions in time.

But of course BBC has the in built advantage of not interrupting programmes for any kind of promotional activity, which helps them a lot.

Now if ITV and commercial radio did only minimal commerical interruptions, maybe that would help them, but I don't know for sure. What I do know is that I like the fact that Gold has only 2 commercial breaks per hour, rather than 3 or 4 (most of the time), and I do like the fact that Pirate Oldies commercial breaks last only 1 minute, but not the fact that there are 6 of them per hour.

Yes, commercial breaks and sponsorships are an essential part of paying the bills, but it is not something that listeners even like, they just put up with. I much prefer the US public radio idea of using quick 15 or 20 second announcements at strategic points through the hour voiced by a station voice, rather than commercial breaks of full production adverts.

1 year, 9 months ago

''So, guaranteed income, the lion's share of FM frequencies, and unlimited television advertising is OK, then? ''

Absolutely okay while BBC radio brings me current affairs, comedy, drama, documentaries and well informed music programmes.
Who else does programmes like the Lost Tony Hancock (recreated) Half Hours or Friday Night Is Music Night on BBC Radio 2?
Special occasions coverage on BBC Radio 3 from Scotland including the East Neuk Festival (2015) in the Kingdom of Fife and regular visits to broadcast the St Magnus Festival in Orkney. Who else does that type of coverage?
The BBC does deserve the lion's share of FM spectrum!

1 year, 9 months ago

Carl, you're right, they've had a funding reduction but rather than work with fewer staff, reduce duplication and create a more efficient operation they've decided to close services like BBC Three rather than the lesser-used, say, Radio 3 in order to keep the political classes sweet.

James C is right. The BBC is able to advertise its' radio stations on TV quite easily. The stations don't have to pay anyone to get that airtime. A commercial radio station has to pay a commercial TV station to get on, and make sure there's minimal "wastage". This is one reason why we've seen the shift to brands in this country. Leicester Sound would have to buy the Waltham TX at the least, meaning huge parts of the East Midlands would see an advert for a station they couldn't get. Having one brand across an ITV region makes life much easier.

And they've still got a guaranteed income and a hugely powerful TX network. It won't happen now of course because it'd pee on DAB's bonfire, but a more sensible redrawing of the FM map would allow at the very least one more national commercial service.

Finally, bear in mind that until fairly recently, Commercial Radio has had a regulatory straitjacket! It is highly unlikely you would have got the changes made to Radio 1 or Radio 2 in the 90s through the RA or Ofcom.

1 year, 9 months ago

Actually no, James, you're completely wrong.

They have cut costs in many way by a hell of a lot (do some research; don't just read the anti-BBC press!) but there comes a point where you can't cut "behind the scenes" by much more without it affecting output.

Can't speak to your other comments as I don't know enough about the subject.

1 year, 9 months ago

Honestly, I haven't seen this much rubbish since my last trip to United Downs!!!

they've had a funding reduction but rather than work with fewer staff, reduce duplication and create a more efficient operation they've decided to close services like BBC Three rather than the lesser-used, say, Radio 3 in order to keep the political classes sweet.

Have you maybe considered that maybe they can't work with fewer staff to produce what they do? That duplication is better than using fewer staff to produce for both radio and television and provide an inferior service for both, or in the case of sports, that having one commentary team for one match involving two different local stations again might provide an inferior service for both stations, rather than a superior one? I'm not saying there can't be efficiencies, but unlike you, I don't automatically assume that duplication is bad, especially when you have 39 different local services serving 39 different audiences. Nor do I automatically assume that fewer staff will produce a better product. With broadcasting, the old adage about you get what you pay for, is pretty accurate most of the time.

The BBC is able to advertise its' radio stations on TV quite easily. The stations don't have to pay anyone to get that airtime.

No, but they have to compete with BBC TV and all their promotional requirements. For every promotion BBC radio gets, BBC TV gets at least 20. So, really, it's 'easy' for them to get airtime??? THE HELL IT IS!!!

And they've still got a guaranteed income and a hugely powerful TX network.

And that means jack shit!!! If the product weren't up to snuff, it wouldn't make one lousy bit of difference. As I learned in retail, you can't even give something away to someone if they don't want it.

Honestly, the real world shoots down every one of these myths, and STILL, they get repeated like they're written on stone tablets or something. A lie repeated 1,000,000 times is STILL a lie.

Finally, bear in mind that until fairly recently, Commercial Radio has had a regulatory straitjacket!

THUNK Blimey O'Reilly!!! A regulatory strait-jacket????? Commerical Radio has been allowed to get away with things the BBC NEVER COULD! The nearest commercial radio has come to a regulatory strait-jacket would have been the IBA rules in the 1970s. Since the Radio Authority came in in the 1990s, everything's been 'light touch', in fact at times so light, that commercial radio has had at most a slap on the wrist with a piece of wet lettuce for things that the IBA would have come down a lot harder on.

Now I realise that you're probably not old enough to remember the IBA, but next time you go to say something that stupid and that untrue, please seek permission from a responsible adult first!

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

Ian, please note that if you start insulting people rather than what they say, I'll have no hesitation in editing or removing further comments.

1 year, 9 months ago

Ah don't worry JC. After the last 12 months I've been through, a pissed-up rant from Ian I can handle. I have bigger fish to fry these days.

That said, it's nice to have a RAJAR day where Art's Heart Scotland thread isn't the centre of attention.

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

Global at least understand that to target the BBC, you're going to have to target them with brands that at least fit the BBC's portfolio, but with a much more tighter focus.

Radio 1 - Capital
Radio 2 and BBC Local Radio in England - Smooth, Gold and Heart
Radio 3 - Classic FM (of which the latter has many more listeners).
Radio 4, 5 Live and the topical speech element of BBC LR - LBC and LBC London News.

Bauer are getting there with Kiss for the R1 audience, Magic for the R2 audience and Absolute for a male audience, which will crossover with elements of 6 Music, but they haven't quite grasped how to programme those City stations which are a hybrid of R1 and R2 on FM, while AM seems to be emulating Smooth...badly.

For me as a nearly 37 year old male, there isn't one single BBC radio brand that I feel targets me directly. I'll dip into Radio 2, 4, 5 Live, BBC Radio London and BBC Surrey, yet I wouldn't listen to those stations all day, where as a commercial station if it has the right programming can be left on all day, although internet radio or foreign radio stations such as Nostalgie in France are more appealing to me as a listener than most UK stations currently.

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

Ian said:

Programming hours on BBC1 and BBC2 are 59 minutes, which means just 1 minute of promotional activity time per hour.

I wasn't sure I believed that. So I went to take a look at the timings. On 3 February 2016, after The One Show on BBC ONE nearing 8.00pm, we had...

(The One show was 58'57" tonight, incidentally)

  1. BBC London News headlines/promo: 1'50"
  2. Verbal schedule slate: 5"
  3. Promo for Inside Story: 20"
  4. Promo for Wishlist: 10"
  5. Promo for Room 101: 10"
  6. Promo for War and Peace: 25"

If you assume that the BBC News promo is an actual news bulletin, then this hour of programming (which was actually nearly 62 minutes) included, as you say, one minute of cross-promotion.

It's probably worth pointing out that many BBC programmes are made for the international market and don't last 59 minutes. Planet Earth, for example, lasted a rather more commercial-friendly 50 minutes, padded with a cheap "Behind the scenes" DVD filler for the remaining eight.

1 year, 9 months ago

Just to come back to Ian though, yeah I'm too young at 31 to remember the IBA but I've read up on it being the anorak I am. Point stands: if there were commercial radio stations doing the pre-Bannister/Moir formats on 1 and 2, there is NO way the RA would have approved the format changes to what they became. Even now, you'd struggle to convert, say, a Smooth to Heart. (Heart to Capital has of course been done, but the CHR legacy of much of the One Network is responsible for that.)

1 year, 9 months ago

And as for Carl, he's well known online for defending the BBC in between claiming benefits.

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

(Heart to Capital has of course been done, but the CHR legacy of much of the One Network is responsible for that.)

From what I recall the only Heart to Capital conversions are those stations which led to Heart replacing Real Radio in North Wales, with Heart NW replacing Real which also led to a rebranding to Capital in the Wirral taking the North Wales service from Wrexham. (97.1 could simulcast Capital Liverpool in the future if the licence is allowed to change).

Most if not all of the ex One Network Heart's which have a CHR format have a different log to the regional Heart licences in local hours.

1 year, 9 months ago

And as for Carl, he's well known online for defending the BBC in between claiming benefits.

And? Relevance of latter to the former? I can't do both? I can't have an opinion because I claim benefits? Not really sure your comment is in any way relevant to anything.

1 year, 9 months ago

Carl Waring: Keep defending the BBC, they need all the friends they can get!
According to a lecturer at Stirling University, ''Scotland [with the rest of the UK] exports two of the most important things in life, education and the BBC World Service [radio]''.

1 year, 9 months ago

Carl Waring: Keep defending the BBC, they need all the friends they can get!

Well they already have me and the other 97% of the UK who regularly use their services (TV, Radio, Online) so I think they're doing okay.

You might be better actually discussing the topic rather than attacking me. But then you can only do that if you actually have a reasonable argument with which to do so.

1 year, 9 months ago

James Cridland, I have to correct myself for using out of date information, just checked the latest info at http://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/tv/production/articles/technical-requirements#durations and it turns out that programme durations required for a 60 minute slot are now 58 minutes on BBC1, 59 minutes on BBC2 and BBC4, and 57 minutes on BBC3. It's still way less than the promotional and advertising time on any other channel in the UK.

Oh, and I know all about differences in versions that are broadcast from different broadcasters in different countries. For instance, Mythbusters airs in at least 2 different versions that I'm aware of. The North American version has a running time of 44 minutes. The International version which airs in Australia runs 50 minutes, and usually either includes extended versions of the myths being tested, or short 6 minute mini-myths. So, not unknown to me at all.

1 year, 9 months ago

Martin Philip is actually pretty close here. Capital and Capital Xtra are definitely close to Radio 1 and 1Xtra, although Capital have not done anything like Radio 1's Big Weekend, which is coming to Exeter later this year.

Also, the Radio 3 / Classic FM comparison is fair, though again, Classic FM don't do anything quite like the BBC Proms.

However, I don't think you can really compare Radio 4 to LBC, and even a 5 Live / LBC comparison is lacking. Show me anything that LBC does that is even comparable to the dramas and comedy shows like I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and the panel games like Just A Minute, or the game shows like Counterpoint and Brain Of Britain. Also, LBC is lacking in the sports coverage stakes compared to 5 Live.

I must admit as well to having some sympathy with Martin's position. As a 42 year old male, I don't feel the BBC speaks to me through any single brand, but then neither does commercial radio speak to me through any single brand. From a BBC standpoint, I'll dip into Radio Cornwall, Radio Devon, 5 Live, 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC World Service, Radio 4 and Radio 3, but right now, Radios 1, 2 and 6music have kinda lost me.

Commercial radio on the other hand, I'll dip into Pirate FM, Radio Plymouth, Pirate Oldies, Gold, Smooth, TalkSport, Classic FM, Magic, but right now, even my local stations can't hold my attention all day.

Outside of those, I listen to Penwith Radio, Source FM, Phonic FM, RTE Gold, RTE Lyric FM, WCBS FM, WCBS 880, WNYC, WGBH, WETA, WBZ, WBBM on a regular or semi-regular basis, and through podcasts and on-demand I'll catch up with material from KQED and KCRW as well. I've also been known to tune into KCRW's Eclectic 24 and NPR's All Songs Considered stream, and my problem is that no station gives me the mix of music and content that I'm looking for. If I could either find or create a station that would do that, then I'd be a happy bunny, but it's difficult to do that, so often I'll have a radio station playing the music, and I'll get the content from online sources.

1 year, 9 months ago

Capital have not done anything like Radio 1's Big Weekend

I must have dreamt the Jingle Bell Ball and Summertime Ball then.

Pot, kettle, etc.

1 year, 9 months ago

Are they broadcast live on Capital? My understanding was they were non-broadcast events.

1 year, 9 months ago

Oh, this is awkward but... yes. Yes, they are.

1 year, 9 months ago

In that case, I stand corrected on Capital.

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

However, I don't think you can really compare Radio 4 to LBC, and even a 5 Live / LBC comparison is lacking. Show me anything that LBC does that is even comparable to the dramas and comedy shows like I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and the panel games like Just A Minute, or the game shows like Counterpoint and Brain Of Britain. Also, LBC is lacking in the sports coverage stakes compared to 5 Live.

Global aren't going to do panel game shows or drama (although LBC did drama in the past), but they do directly compete with Today and PM on R4 and the Campbell/Burden breakfast show/Your Call and whoever happens to be presenting drive on 5 Live. They also directly compete with 5 Live and Talksport with their Saturday afternoon results show Scores.

LBC isn't all ranting UKIP and Tory voters calling in, there are panels and analytical parts of most shows. Iain Dale despite being a Tory has some of the most intelligent non phone-in speech of the whole day's output and at least on-air comes over as being impartial.

UTV's reborn talkRADIO will also compete with the non-sport elements of 5 Live.

I don't feel the BBC speaks to me through any single brand, but then neither does commercial radio speak to me through any single brand.

Absolute is pretty close to what I require from a major commercial radio brand. However it's not the main station, but the decades stations which have reeled me in. It also helps that they're able to simulcast the main breakfast show, but I'm not forced to listen to Coldplay or Snow Patrol between the links.

CDNX on the London (and Norwich) minimux also has a lot of my airtime. It introduced me to new alternative music with familiar classics, yet unlike 6 Music which has a perception of being muso and anal. (Radio 3 for guitar fans).

Overall, there is so much choice, that I could live without 98% of BBC radio output, but I'm also aware of the reasons why PSB radio is required and should stay.

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

I don't think you can really compare Radio 4 to LBC, and even a 5 Live / LBC comparison is lacking. Show me anything that LBC does that is even comparable to the dramas and comedy shows like I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and the panel games like Just A Minute, or the game shows like Counterpoint and Brain Of Britain.

Well, it might be useful to look at the listening for BBC Radio 4 during the day versus LBC. Here's LBC, courtesy of Paul Easton...

(image)

... see how it massively outperforms other stations at many times of the day?

Now, Radio 4 is a massive performer in London.

(image)

But as I understand it - and I'd love to see quarter-hours for Radio 4 as well - Radio 4's audience is a bit like a tent. You've got the big shows (Today, WATO/Archers, PM through to 7.15, and perhaps The World Tonight): and then you have lots and lots of stuff that nobody really listens to. The abysmal You and Yours (a radio equivalent of the Daily Mail, far better suited to BBC Local Radio than a national network); the impenetrable drama, the worthy arts programming.

As I understand it, the bits that Radio 4 are actually in charge of - anything that isn't news - mostly do pretty poorly in the figures. And perhaps that's why LBC is doing so well: because it's a consistent listen. You know what you'll get, even if the voices change. You can't say that about Radio 4...

1 year, 9 months ago

I know that, unlike everyone else here, I'm no kind of radio industry expert but from a layman's POV and in terms of music content alone BBC Radio 1 and 2 leaves pretty-much any commercial radio station in the dust.

Just pop along to comparemyradio.com for the proof.

Here's just one example:
http://comparemyradio.com/compare/BBC_Radio_1/Absolute_Radio
Radio 1: 3,358
Absolute: 1,670 unique tracks

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

Caution, Carl - what that is also saying is that Radio 1 plays peoples' favourite songs less often. It's also a new music station, whereas Absolute is mostly an old music station...

1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks, James.

I think R1 is more (but not exclusively) "commercial" during the day with specialist music at night.

Plus yes, I wasn't exactly sure which commercial station to compare R1 with as, quite frankly, there isn't one direct comparison. But I think that's also the point :) There is is no direct commercial equivalent of R1.

PRO1 year, 9 months ago

Radio 1 to meet PSB requirements is more broader with their music programming in the daytime hours. Newsbeat, The Live Lounge and increased speech ensure that the output slightly different to Capital between 6.30am-7pm.

However Radio 1 competes with Capital and Kiss nationally for a similar young adult pop audience.

1 year, 9 months ago

However Radio 1 competes with Capital and Kiss nationally for a similar young adult pop audience.

So now I know :) Thanks Martin.

1 year, 9 months ago

Radio 1 also has a considerable number of specialist shows at night.

1 year, 9 months ago

Yes. That was my point.

1 year, 9 months ago

Carl Waring please note that I was not attacking your view on an earlier comment, I was sincerely supporting your view! My listening preference is with BBC services for most of the time!

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