Radio is a robust and long-lasting medium, it predates film, it’s versatile and ever-changing. It’s hard to imagine radio ever going away, and much like film, it can be as proactive and reactive as you want. It can be simple background noise, long-form narrative or interactive games. It’s unique. Yet, some are starting to whisper about a time after radio, that in the age of digital entertainment – from streaming, to apps, to podcasts – radio has simply outlived its purpose. The facts however, suggest something entirely different.
The official Rajar statistics show that both local and national radio stations across the UK have been on the rise. Heart is currently the biggest commercial radio station in the UK with 9.7 million listeners weekly. These are historic high viewing figures, and they are not an isolated case. Smaller and more independent stations are also seeing their listener-ships increase dramatically. LBC, a politically-driven station saw their numbers reach 2.2 million a week, the highest in their 46 year history. Most of the new listeners were tuning in to listen to politically-opinionated hosts such as James O’Brien and Nigel Farage.
Widely speaking, 90% of Brits are still tuning in and listening to the radio, an envious percentage to other markets. Yet, these statistics are not all positive. Just last year, Radio 4 lost 750,000 listeners over the course of 2018, largely due to its booming commercial rivals. It would seem that the legacy radio stations are being hit the hardest while independent stations are rapidly gaining.
This may be in part due to the content being offered. In these politically difficult times, the chance to listen to politically-driven individuals is a substantial pull. The BBC however, mandated by law, remains apolitical. Perhaps the reason is more simple than this, commercial radio has been poaching talent from the BBC for some time now, from Chris Evans move to Virgin Radio, or Simon Mayo to Scala, the new Bauer Media station.
Despite this shift to commercial, the market is not on a plateau, but substantially growing. We are seeing an audience change and the market is changing with it. There is more variety, diversity of content and voice. The market continues to fill a gap, one that allows the user to choose there engagement in a totally dynamic way. Radio continues to be robust and in the UK, there is still a high demand for it.