Rajar reveals stations gaining ground on BBC

Commercial radio has bucked the trend and gained ground on the BBC, according to the Rajar listening figures for the fourth quarter of 2002.

Over the previous two quarters, commercial radio saw its audience share remain static. However, the figures for the quarter ending December 2002 saw all commercial radio increase its share of listening by 0.9 per cent on last year to 45.5 per cent. Its reach also improved, from 31.8 million to 31.9 million.

Overall, there were mixed results for radio as a medium. While its weekly reach rose impressively year on year, from 44.2 million to 44.4 million, the average number of hours per listener dropped to 24.2 from 24.7.

Of the national networks, the hardest hit was Virgin Radio, which saw its share of listening tumble from 1.8 per cent to 1.6 per cent year on year, and its reach drop from 3.2 million to 2.8 million.

TalkSPORT's listening share remained static, quarter on quarter, but rose 0.1 per cent year on year to 1.7 per cent, cementing its lead over Virgin.

Classic FM enjoyed a 0.2 per cent rise in listening share, both quarter on quarter and year on year, to 4.7 per cent. However, like talkSPORT, it couldn't back this up with encouraging reach figures. Classic FM and talkSPORT saw their year-on-year reaches fall to 6.7 million and 2.4 million.

In London, 95.8 Capital FM had another torrid quarter. Its listening share of 8.8 per cent was unchanged from the third quarter but was down 2.1 per cent year on year. Its weekly reach fell to 2.5 million from 2.9 million. Its nearest rival, Heart 106.2, failed to take advantage of this; its listening share fell 0.3 per cent quarter on quarter and 0.2 per cent year on year to 6 per cent.

Xfm and Kiss 100 FM were the capital's big winners. The former saw its weekly reach increase by 34,000 in the last year to 484,000 (although this is down 51,000 on the last quarter). However, audience share rose from 1.3 per cent to 1.7 per cent year on year.

Kiss boosted its listening share by 0.7 per cent over the past 12 months to 4.9 per cent, gaining on its rivals, 95.8 Capital FM and Heart 106.2.

Jazz FM continued to improve, increasing its reach over the year by 121,000 to 978,000 and its audience share from 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

Justin Sampson, the Radio Advertising Bureau's managing director, said: "I think it was a good year for radio as a whole. The medium is thriving and the Rajar figures endorse the feeling radio will be a long-term beneficiary of technological developments."

He added: "Research tells us that, alongside new media, radio is the only medium that has increased its share of people's consumption. This means there is a long-term increase in supply, which is good for advertisers, especially in the wake of declining press and static TV."

RADIO STATIONS RANKED BY SHARE OF LISTENING DECEMBER 2002

Share of Share of

listening % listening % change

December 2002 December 2001 %

All BBC network 52.5 53.4 -0.9

All commercial 45.5 44.6 +0.9

All local commercial radio 37.9 36.8 +1.1

95.8 Capital FM 8.8 10.9 -2.1

Heart 106.2 6.0 6.2 -0.2

Kiss 100 FM 4.9 4.2 +0.7

Classic FM 4.7 4.5 +0.2

Magic 105.4 4.6 4.8 -0.2

TalkSPORT 1.7 1.6 +0.1

104.9 Xfm 1.7 1.3 +0.4

Virgin Radio AM 1.6 1.8 -0.2

Source: Rajar.