Some good news for BBC Radio 3, bad for Classic FM

Some good news for BBC Radio 3, bad for Classic FM


norman lebrecht

May 16, 2014

The Rajar listening figures are out.

They usually make bad reading for the classical music community with a continuing trend of steady decline.

Not this time.

radio days


Radio 3 has, by our reading of the stats, a 4.4% increase on the comparable first quarter of 2013 and 4.8% on the last quarter of 2013.

Average  listening hours have risen by an hour to 6 hours 38 minutes in a typical week, the highest for six years.

Breakfast listening is 24 percent up on the quarter, 4 percent down on the year.

Composer of the Week was 24% up on the quarter, 9% up on the year.

Classic FM, by contrast, continues its steady decline, down 5 percent year on year.

It’s not quite clear what Radio 3 is doing right, beyond varying the formula a bit and finding new patterns of listener loyalty. Classic FM knows that it needs to embrace change. But it’s audience is so conservative and its musical offering so fixed that any change might send car drivers spinning off into the arms of soft pop.

Whatever the future holds, these are good figures to Roger Wright to leave behind as he prepares to swap his statuettes for Aldeburgh fishing tackle.

roger-wright (1)

Interest declared: Norman Lebrecht has made programmes for Radio 3 over the past 15 years.



  • Will Duffay says:

    I’m always happy to see Radio 3 do well. It has its faults but it’s an immeasurably wonderful treasure of the UK, and it would be dreadful to see it disappear. I’m surprised by ‘Breakfast listening is 24 percent up on the quarter’ though less surprised by ‘…4 percent down on the year.’ It’s the one programme I would tend to listen to, given my schedule, and it’s the one programme I now to tend to avoid, given the tacky mix of newspaper headlines (the headline in the Daily Mail? Seriously? Between Schubert and Bach? I just don’t need that) and the phone-ins with boring old geezers in the provinces about how they got into classical music whilst on national service in the 50s blah blah blah.

  • […] for returning yet again to the subject of BBC Radio 3 audience figures. But an upbeat article by Norman Lebrecht does require […]

  • Sarah Spilsbury says:

    Bit late coming in on this. Norman, your reading of the stats doesn’t take into consideration the fact that the previous quarter had some very poor figures. Breakfast had one of its lowest ever (542k), so the 24% rise (to 673k) simply meant it was almost back to what it had been the previous year (704k), but not quite.

    My reading was that station reach was 1.992m the previous quarter, so the new quarter (2.087m) bounced back, but the first quarter of 2013 was 2.163m – a very good figure (by Radio 3’s standards).

    This was the FoR3 analysis: