Lauren Laverne has helped the BBC Radio 6 Music to its biggest-ever audience of nearly 2 million listeners.
6 Music had an average weekly audience of 1.99 million listeners in the third quarter of 2014 and extended its lead over Radio 3, according to official Rajar listening figures published on Thursday.
Laverne, the station’s mid-morning DJ, presented its most popular show with 868,000 listeners.
In a sign of the changing way people are listening to the radio, a record 27% of listening for 6 Music was online or via smartphone and tablet apps, the most of any station and more than four times the industry average of 6.4%.
The new audience figures come a week after Labour MP Tom Watson said 6 Music, which is currently available only on digital, should be given Radio 3’s valuable FM slot because it had more listeners.
6 Music has more than tripled its audience since the BBC said it would close the station in 2010, only to be given a reprieve by the BBC Trust after an unprecedented protest by listeners.
A number of its presenters all had record audiences in the last quarter, including Shaun Keaveny’s breakfast show, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie’s afternoon programme, Marc Riley, Huey Morgan and Mary Anne Hobbs.
Radio 3, whose new controller Alan Davey has vowed the station will not be “dumbed down” when he takes over in the new year, was marginally up on the previous quarter but down 5.6% year on year, to 1.91 million.
Age-old problem continues for Radio 1
Radio 1 was also down, slipping 2.5% on the same time last year to 10.6 million.
Its breakfast DJ Nick Grimshaw, a key part of Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper’s efforts to retune the station to a younger audience, had 5.82 million listeners, down on the previous three months but up on Grimshaw’s record low of 5.6 million in the same quarter in 2013.
The average age of the audience continues to hover around the 33-year-old mark, despite Cooper pointing to other ways of measuring the station’s audience. The average age of Grimshaw’s audience was 33.7, with 100,000 more 55- to 64-year-olds tuning in since the first three months of 2014 (up to 283,000), despite efforts to refocus it on its target audience of 15- to 24-year-olds.
Grimshaw’s reach among 15 to 24-year-olds, at 1.75m million, is his second lowest since taking over from Moyles in 2012.
Cooper, who also oversees digital sibling station 1Xtra, said Radio 1 was “leading the industry in becoming a multiplatform youth brand”, including a YouTube channel with more than 1.6 million subscribers and plans for a Radio 1 channel on the BBC’s iPlayer.
Cooper said the Rajar figures “only tell part of the story. I’m very pleased that in the traditionally difficult summer quarter, the Radio 1 Breakfast Show has 240,000 new listeners in the year.
“1Xtra reaches over 1 million people, and our audience is listening for longer.”
Referendum effect fails to boost figures
Despite the huge interest and debate around the Scottish independence referendum, BBC Radio Scotland saw its figures fall for the third quarter of this year.
The station had a weekly reach of 870,000 listeners between 23 June and 14 September (the period accounted for by these audience figures) ahead of the independence vote on 18 September.
BBC Radio Scotland was down 2% on the year and 8.9% on the previous three months.
The BBC faced intense criticism of bias in its coverage of the referendum from pro-independence supporters, with a demonstration outside the corporation’s Glasgow headquarters and participants unfurling a banner calling for political editor Nick Robinson to be sacked.
Chris Evans down but Radio 2 stays top of the pile
Among other BBC national stations, Radio 2 remains the country’s biggest, with just over 15 million listeners, 9.3 million of whom tuned into the Chris Evans breakfast show. Evans was down 600,000 listeners on the previous quarter, but remained by some distance the nation’s breakfast show of choice.
Radio 4 had 10.6 million listeners each week on average, with 6.7 million tuning in to the Today programme, marginally down year on year. Radio 5 Live had 5.8 million listeners, down 5.2% on last year.
Radio 4 Extra was the second biggest digital-only station behind 6 Music, with 1.63 million listeners.
Helen Boaden, director of BBC radio, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to see Radio 6 Music flourishing and one of our roster of outstanding female presenters leading the charge. The station offers something completely distinctive and Lauren’s show is a case study in engaging and intelligent music radio.”
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