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BBC Owns Digital Listening as Audience Hits Record High

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The BBC Broadcasting house in London.

The latest audience figures from official U.K. measuring body RAJAR brought mixed results for BBC’s radio stations. 

On the one hand, specialist formatted digital station 6 Music grew its number of weekly listeners to its highest ever level of 2.2 million, up from 2.19 the previous quarter. That makes it the most listened to digital-only station in the U.K. and marks the biggest listening figures for a digital-only station since RAJAR began measuring British radio audiences in 1992. 

The feat is all the more impressive considering the station - which features Iggy Pop, Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker and Elbow frontman Guy Garvey among its roster of DJs - was in real danger of being axed by the broadcaster back in 2010, leading to a highly publicised and ultimately successful protest campaign.    

On the other hand, BBC’s Top 40 formatted station Radio 1 experienced a slight dip in listeners during the three month period from October to December 2015, dropping from 10.56 to 10.33 million. The network’s share of listening also fell from 6.5 percent to 6.1 percent. 

The station’s flagship Breakfast Show With Nick Grimshaw did grow its audience share, attracting 6.37 million listeners (aged 10+), compared to 6.17 million the previous quarter, but the total weekly reach for all BBC radio was slightly down, drawing a weekly audience of 34.95 million listeners per week, compared with 35.10 million. 

Overall, BBC Radio 2 had the biggest weekly reach of any U.K. radio station with 15.47 million listeners, up from 15.38 million in Q3, while BBC radio’s total audience remained at 53 percent. 

“The radio industry is flourishing and I’m delighted that the brilliant programming produced by both the BBC and commercial radio stations remain a vital part of people’s lives across the country,” said Helen Boaden, Director of BBC Radio, in a statement. She singled out 6 Music for particular praise, calling the record breaking numbers “well deserved.”  

“With its unique range of music and expert presenters, the station continues to grow its loyal listenership. It’s good to see digital listening to BBC stations in such great health. One of radio’s strengths is its convenience, and digital devices make listening even easier,” Boaden went on to say.  

In total, 48.2 million people in the U.K. tuned into a radio station on a weekly basis, equivalent to 90 percent of the population. The digital share of radio listening was also up to just under 42 percent.  

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