The commercial stations bolstered their share to 45.5 per cent, against the BBC's 52.6 per cent, according to the latest Rajar figures.
Rajar also showed commercial radio increasing its share of listening among the key 15- to 24-year-old audience, with its 66 per cent share the highest ever.
Much of the year-on-year growth in commercial listening was driven by the 2 per cent rise in share for national commercial stations following the launch of digital stations on digital radio and the Sky Digital platform.
However, local commercial stations fared less well overall with a slight drop in overall share of listening.
Of the major national commercial stations, talkSPORT saw the largest growth in share, up from 1.7 per cent a year ago to 1.9 per cent, as it posted its best-ever Rajar performance.
Classic FM's share declined slightly to 4.5 per cent compared with the same time last year and Virgin AM also suffered a slight fall to 0.9 per cent.
However, in the London market Virgin has bounced back well after two periods of decline to increase its share from 1.8 per cent to 2.3 per cent over the last quarter.
The battle for share in the London market was won by 95.8 Capital FM, building its lead over Heart 106.2 by increasing its period-on-period share to 7.9 per cent. Heart's share fell dramatically to 5.8 per cent, well under the 6.2 per cent it posted a year ago. But Capital is also down on its share of 8.1 per cent a year ago.
The Chrysalis station LBC 97.3FM was the real success story in London, almost doubling its share year on year to 3.4 per cent. Capital's Xfm also boasted strong growth, up to a share of 1.8 per cent, becoming London's tenth most-listened-to station.
David Mansfield, the chief executive of Capital Radio Group, said: "Today's results mark a new beginning for 95.8 Capital FM with increases not just at breakfast but importantly across the day. It's also great news outside London."
Lorna Tilbian, an analyst at Numis, said: "We expected the Rajars to pass free of incident and this has largely been the case. The upside surprises have been the strong performances of 95.8 FM for Capital, Virgin for SMG and talkSPORT for Wireless Group. By contrast, the disappointment has been the poor performance by Heart while Emap clearly has more corrective action to take at its Big City stations."
RADIO STATIONS RANKED BY SHARE OF LISTENING MARCH 2004
Share of Share of
listening % listening % Change
March 2004 March 2003 yr on yr
All commercial 45.5 44.5 1.0
All BBC 52.6 53.5 -0.9
All national commercial 9.9 7.9 2.0
All local commercial 35.6 36.6 -1.0
National commercial stations
Classic FM 4.5 4.6 -0.1
TalkSPORT 1.9 1.7 0.2
Virgin Radio (AM) 0.9 1.1 -0.2