Is commercial radio having a renaissance?

Commercial radio as a whole is on the up against the BBC, even if it remains a two-horse race, Mark Banham writes.

At the close of Radio Festival 2013, Dee Ford, the group managing director of Bauer Radio, appeared to strike a chord when she made the case for radio as the next big thing.

"There is a groundbreaking media channel out there, a medium with the potential to rival Facebook as a new-media darling. It’s a powerful mobile medium, it drives word of mouth, it offers hyper-local targeting, it delivers across multiple platforms, it provides scalable campaigns and it has a viable revenue model," she says. "It’s radio."

That said, third-quarter Rajar results brought little surprise. In fact, it is like a sedate parlour game in which most can guess the outcome – an outcome decided between Global Radio and Bauer.

In the coveted London market, Global’s Heart garnered the headlines for all the wrong reasons. It dropped to fourth place among commercial radio broadcasters in the region by losing more than 180,000 listeners in the third quarter – a 9.5 per cent drop on the previous quarter and a 4.6 per cent fall year on year.

Bauer’s Magic attracted 1.967 million London listeners in the third quarter – a 4.9 per cent increase on the second quarter and a 9.5 per cent decline compared with the same period last year.

Magic pulled in 3.683 million listeners in the UK – a 1.8 per cent quarterly rise but a 3 per cent year-on-year drop.

Its fellow Bauer station Kiss was second in London, attracting 1.974 million listeners in the quarter – down 1.9 per cent from the second quarter but increasing 1.1 per cent year on year.

The winner in London remained Global’s Capital. With 2.170 million listeners, it was down 0.8 per cent quarter on quarter but up 8.6 per cent on the same period last year.

Underlying the battle between the networks was a simple truth – commercial radio was up against the BBC, taking 43.3 per cent of audience share in the three months to 15 September, while the BBC dipped to 53.4 per cent.

Speculation about a renaissance in commercial radio, supported by research from RadioCentre and Kantar Media, recognises that radio needs to keep evolving to keep up with both consumer and technological changes.

So, is radio in rude health? Have your say in our poll below.

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