Commercial Radio Surpasses BBC In UK Broadcast Ratings
by Jeff McKay
August 5, 2022 at 1:20 AM (PT)
For the first time since 1999, more time was spent listening to commercial radio stations in the UK than BBC RADIO in the three months ending in JUNE.
The first signs of trouble may have been brewing in the second-quarter of 2020, when the BBC reported that ratings for some of their biggest morning programs dropped during the pandemic. BBC RADIO 2's ZOE BALL, the highest-rated morning radio show in the UK, attracted 7.2 million listeners - down from 8.1 million recorded in the first quarter of 2020.
Government cuts that fund the BBC RADIO operation led to a number of big names like CHRIS MOYLES, CHRIS EVANS, ANDREW MARR, JON SOPEL, and EMILY MAITLIS to exit the BBC for commercial radio companies, which at the same time, has been investing and spending more for their talent and operations, allowing these companies to close the ratings gap. UK ratings measurement company RAJAR reported in 2012 that 56% of all radio listening in the UK was to BBC RADIO stations. That number as of JUNE, 2022 is now 48.1%.
RAJAR Ratings (all individuals 15+) show that on average, 32.9 million listeners tune into BBC RADIO each week, surpassed by the 36.2 million who listen to commercial stations.
At the same time, GLOBAL RADIO, EUROPE’s largest commercial-funded radio group, has been pouring money into talent and resources, including hiring MAITLIS, SOPEL, and MARR. RUPERT MURDOCH bought the WIRELESS GROUP that included VIRGIN RADIO and the now-popular TALKSPORT, and offered large contracts to BBC RADIO star EVANS, along with JEREMY KYLE and TRISHA GODDARD. GERMAN-owned BAUER RADIO also ratcheted up operations in the UK.
TRISONIC Co-Founder HOWARD BAREHAM tells the UK’s GUARDIAN newspaper, “The commercial radio industry has transformed over the last decade in particular. The commercial sector has deep pockets and invested heavily, there is better quality programming and more marketing than ever, spin-off stations of brands such as ABSOLUTE and KISS have worked well and national talent that once would have stayed at the BBC is now being hosted increasingly on commercial radio. They are all private companies, not hampered by being public, and can therefore invest for the long term. The commercial industry has been on the tail of the BBC in terms of listening hours for some years, it has been coming.”