The BBC's digital alternative station BBC 6 Music has recorded its highest ever listening figures in the latest RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) figures, published today (Feb. 2).
The music-dedicated station, which the BBC toyed with axing in 2010 before industry and public support persuaded them to reconsider, had an average of 1.44 million weekly listeners in the fourth quarter of 2011, up from 1.23 million the previous quarter and up 300,000 year-on-year, according to RAJAR. The station, which celebrates its tenth birthday this year and includes Guy Garvey, singer with Mercury Prize-winning band Elbow and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker among its presenters, holds a 1.2% total audience share. The BBC's digital urban network BBC 1Xtra also posted record figures with 1.02 million weekly listeners, up from 904,000 the previous quarter.
Those figures were, however, dwarfed by the BBC's two biggest stations, the Top-40 formatted BBC Radio 1 and AC-formatted BBC Radio 2. BBC Radio 1 was up 2.1% year-on-year with a weekly audience of 11.67 million listeners (8.5% audience share). BBC Radio 2, which has long been the U.K.'s most popular radio station retained its pole position, up 2.3% year-on-year to 14.27 million (16.3% audience share), climbing from 13.94 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Radio 1's flagship breakfast show, "The Chris Moyles Show" was up from 7.16 the previous quarter to 7.24 million listeners. Radio 2's "The Chris Evans Breakfast Show" - which like Moyles' morning slot featured in Billboard's Maximum Exposure 2011 list for the U.K. - held steady with an average weekly audience of 8.86 million listeners, retaining its crown as the U.K.'s most popular breakfast radio show.
In the commercial sector, the Global Radio-owned quasi-national Heart network drew 7.47 million listeners in quarter four, down from 7.65 million the previous quarter and 3.6% lower than the 7.75 million weekly listeners reported in quarter four 2010. Capital FM, which is also owned by the Global group, was up 4.7% year-on-year to 7.08 million. Classic FM (also owned by Global Radio) recorded a weekly reach of 5.36 million, down 6.2% year-on year from 5.72 million for the period ending December 2010.
Total radio listening in the United Kingdom experienced a small drop, falling 50,000 listeners year-on-year, but remained high at 46.7 million weekly listeners, representing 89.8% of the UK population.
Overall, digital radio accounted for 29.1% of all U.K. radio listening with a weekly average audience of 23.1 million people, up from 20.9 million in Q4, 2010. DAB (Digital audio broadcasting) accounted for 19.4% of all radio listening, up from 15.8% the previous year.