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Aug 2, 2018

BBC's Today programme sheds 800,000 listeners | Media I The Guardian

theguardian.com

BBC's Today programme sheds 800,000 listeners | Media

Jim Waterson

BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme has lost 800,000 listeners over the past year, according to Rajar figures released on Thursday. The decline in listeners came amid discussion over the direction it has taken under its editor, Sarah Sands, and whether it continues to set the political agenda.
The Today programme reached an average of 7 million listeners a week between April and June, down from a record 7.8 million people in the same period last year. The BBC pointed out that this period included major news events such as the snap general election and the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.
During the same quarterly period in 2016, 7.3 million weekly listeners were attracted to the programme.
Today remains one of the most scrutinised programmes at the BBC. Earlier this year it faced criticism after the programme’s co-host John Humphrys was recorded making off-air comments about the pay of Carrie Gracie.
The BBC’s digital stations continued to perform well, with 2.4 million people listening weekly to 6 Music, eight years after it was threatened with closure.
The Radio 1 breakfast show hosted by Nick Grimshaw, who will soon be replaced by Greg James, has attracted 5.3 million weekly listeners – compared with the 9 million who tune in for Chris Evans on Radio 2.
The BBC dominates the UK radio market, with its stations reaching 34.4 million listeners a week – equivalent to a 51.7% audience share of the UK radio industry, although this position is being slowly chipped away by commercial rivals.
Global Radio, which is responsible for stations including Capital, Smooth and Classic FM, has reached a record 25.4 million weekly listeners. Bauer’s Absolute Radio also celebrated securing its best ever audience figures, with its Dave Berry breakfast show reaching 2.2 million listeners.
In June, James Purnell, the BBC’s director of education and radio, said the corporation faced an existential threat from streaming services and announced a renewed focus on reaching new audiences through podcasts and digital services.
He also insisted that he no longer cared about beating the BBC’s commercial rivals in the battle to dominate the British radio market, warning that “if the number of people listening to radio fell, then one of us could win the share battle while we all lost the war”.