Listeners to the BBC's digital alternative station BBC 6 Music grew to a record high in the last quarter, attracting an average weekly audience of 1.45 million in the first three months of 2012, according to the latest RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) figures, published today (May 17).

Earlier in the week, the music-dedicated station, which the BBC nearly axed in 2010, provoking a wave of public and industry protest, won the UK station of the year award at the Sony Radio Academy Awards. Its latest weekly listening figures represent only a marginal 0.8% increase on the previous quarter's 1.44 million, but still equate to its highest-ever listening figures. The station, which celebrated its tenth birthday earlier this year and counts Lauren Laverne, Huey Morgan, Jarvis Cocker and Guy Garvey among its presenters, holds 1.1% total audience share.

BBC 6 Music Records Highest Ever Listening Figures, Digital Listening Increases

BBC Radio 2 remains the U.K.'s most popular radio station, up 0.2% year-on-year to 14.56 million (9,000 short of its highest ever listening figures), climbing from 14.27 million in the previous quarter. The AC-formatted station's flagship show "The Chris Evans Breakfast Show" grew its weekly audience reach to 9.23 million, up from 8.86 in the closing three months of 2011. Radio 2 presenters Ken Bruce and Jeremy Vine, meanwhile, drew record audiences of 7.72 and 6.76 million, respectively.

The Top 40-formatted BBC Radio 1, however, saw its weekly audience fall to 11.14 million weekly listeners, from 11.67 the previous quarter (a 4.5% drop). Year-on-year listenership for the station fell 5.8%, from 11.83 million for the corresponding period last year. Having grown audience share in the previous quarter, Radio 1's flagship breakfast slot "The Chris Moyles Show," which like "The Chris Evans Breakfast Show" featured in Billboard's Maximum Exposure 2011 list for the U.K.," fell to 7.10 million, down from 7.24 million the previous quarter.

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In the commercial sector, the Global Radio-owned quasi-national Heart network drew 7.48 million listeners, up from 7.46 the previous quarter and up 0.7% year-on-year. Capital FM (also owned by Global) was up 5% year-on-year to 7.05 million listeners, although that figure represented a 0.4% fall on the previous quarter when the Top 40-formatted station drew 7.08 million listeners. Classic FM (also Global-owned) recorded a weekly reach of 5.44 million, down 10.5% year-on-year, but up from the 5.36 million listeners it drew in the previous quarter.

Like the previous quarter, total radio listening in the United Kingdom remained unchanged at 46.7 million weekly listeners, representing almost 90% of its population. The total number of hours listened to radio was 1.06 billion, the same as the first quarter of 2011.

Digital radio listening grew 5% year-on-year with a weekly reach of 23.5 million people, up from 22.3 million in quarter one last year. That equates to nearly 30% of the U.K. population now accessing radio via a digital device, compared to 26.5% for the corresponding period last year. DAB Radio accounted for 19.1% of all radio listening, down from its 19.4% audience share in the previous quarter, but up 15% year-on-year.