BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Local Radio Experience Declining Listener Numbers

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Recent figures released by the Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) have unveiled a substantial decline in local listenership for the BBC, with BBC Radio Merseyside experiencing a notable decrease in its audience over the past year.

According to the latest statistics, the BBC has witnessed a collective loss of almost 800,000 local radio listeners within the span of a year. In the final quarter of 2023, the number of weekly listeners to BBC stations stood at just under 7 million, marking a significant drop from 7.8 million during the same period in 2022. This decrease represents a stark 10% decline, compared to the 9 million listeners recorded at the conclusion of 2021.

At a local level, BBC Radio Merseyside, a prominent broadcaster serving the Merseyside region, has experienced a 25% decrease in its listenership over the past year. Figures reveal that the station reached 179,000 weekly listeners in the final three months of 2023, down from 240,000 in the corresponding period of 2022. This decline follows a previous drop from 253,000 listeners per week at the close of 2021.

Despite the decrease in listener numbers, there has been an uptick in the average duration of time individuals spend tuned in to BBC Radio Merseyside. On average, listeners devoted 13.4 hours per week to the station by the end of 2023, representing an increase from 11.2 hours in 2022 and 9.7 hours in 2021.

The decline in BBC’s local radio audience coincides with controversial adjustments made to the broadcaster’s local journalism services. In a bid to expand its digital local news coverage, the BBC has implemented cuts to its local radio output, including the termination of programmes such as Radio Merseyside’s late show.

Moreover, the BBC has initiated plans to consolidate programming across its 39 local stations and reduce the number of presenters, resulting in the elimination of numerous roles thus far. Despite these reductions, the BBC aims to enhance its investigative reporting capabilities by establishing 11 investigative reporting teams nationwide. Additionally, the broadcaster intends to bolster its daily online news provision for 43 local areas and introduce dedicated websites covering specific regions.

Conversely, while the BBC grapples with declining listenership, local commercial radio stations have experienced an increase in their audience numbers. At the close of 2023, over 27 million individuals tuned in to local commercial radio stations, marking a nearly 7% rise from the previous year.

While BBC Radio Berkshire witnessed a significant decline in listenership, with a 38% decrease from 118,000 to 73,000 weekly listeners, several BBC stations, including BBC Radio Wiltshire/Swindon, BBC Three Counties Radio, and BBC CWR, observed an increase in their audience base.

Responding to the latest figures, a spokesperson for the BBC acknowledged the challenges faced by the broadcaster amid the ongoing restructuring of its local radio services. However, they cautioned against drawing immediate conclusions between the RAJAR figures and the implementation of new schedules, emphasizing the need for further analysis.

As BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Local Radio continue to navigate shifts in audience preferences and consumption habits, the broadcaster remains committed to delivering quality programming and adapting to evolving trends in media consumption.

Lauren Redford
Lauren Redford
Journalist Lauren Redford is a seasoned business journalist who focuses on regional areas throughout the United Kingdom. With her expertise and dedication, Lauren brings insightful coverage of local communities and their economic landscapes. With a meticulous approach and a passion for storytelling, she uncovers stories that resonate with readers and offers a deeper understanding of the business world. Lauren's commitment to delivering accurate and engaging news makes her a valuable member of the News Write Ups team.

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