BBC Radio Scotland bucks trend with boom in listeners as Radio 2 counts cost of Ken Bruce exit
BBC Radio Scotland’s audience has grown by nearly 70,000 over the past year, bucking a trend that has seen listeners desert the corporation’s radio stations across the UK in their droves.
The latest industry figures show that the station’s weekly reach stood at 867,000 in the second quarter of 2023, up from 800,000 in the same period last year. It is the highest figure recorded since the first quarter of 2022, when it commanded 877,000 listeners.
The RAJAR data also shows that Radio Scotland’s audience has grown by 17,000 compared to Q1 2023. The average hours listeners spent tuned in to the station also rose from 6.0 to 6.9 hours over the same period.
The upward trajectory bucks the trend seen across the BBC’s radio stations, which registered a drop of nearly 1.3 million listeners over the 12 month period, and a smaller dip of almost 700,000 listeners quarter to quarter.
A BBC Scotland spokesman said it had been an “incredibly busy period” for news and sport, adding: “We’re delighted that our audience continue to join us for the latest information, trusted analysis and, of course, our comprehensive sport coverage and commentary. The data also shows that our audience are spending more time listening to us each week, enjoying our mix of conversation, culture, comedy and music made and loved in Scotland.”
BBC Radio 2 lost more than a million listeners since Ken Bruce left the station for commercial rival Greatest Hits Radio, the audience data shows. The veteran Scottish broadcaster drew an audience of 8.3 million for his mid-morning show, but three months later, the same slot, now presented by Vernon Kay, had just 6.9 million listeners. The station as a whole saw its weekly reach down from 14.4 million to 13.4 million year on year.
BBC Radio 4 continued its recent decline, with a loss of a further 428,000 listeners compared with the previous quarter. Over the course of a year, the station has dropped from 10.2 million listeners to 8.9 million.
However, the corporation pointed to the success of its BBC Sounds app, which attracted a record 582 million plays in the second quarter, up by more than 33 per cent on the previous three months, and nearly 50 per cent compared to the same period last year. Those figures included 4.1 million live and on-demand plays of radio and podcast content from Radio Scotland, with 1.8 million global downloads of the corporation’s Scottish-produced podcasts.
Elsewhere in Scotland over the 12 month period, Clyde 1’s audience grew by 12,000 to 652,000, and Forth 1 enjoyed a spike of 36,000 listeners to reach 361,000. But Heart Scotland’s audience fell from 383,000 to 346,000, Capital Scotland was down 36,000 to 377,000, and Smooth Radio Scotland saw a slight decrease in listeners from 362,000 to 358,000.
Across the UK, Times Radio suffered a pronounced drop in listeners over the year, down from 570,000 to 523,000. Talkradio’s weekly reach grew six per cent year on year to 727,000 in Q2 2023, while its sister sports station Talksport’s audience was up 20 per cent to 3.2 million.
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