Under the RAJAR

Where do radio listening figures come from?

Anthony B. Masters

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How many people listen to the radio? What do they listen to?

These are major questions for radio broadcasters and advertisers. Different programmes and stations are battling for listeners.

Journalists often write about radio listening statistics with total certainty. For example, a Music Week article claimed:

As for Chris Evans, he was… up! The former Radio 2 presenter added 3000 listeners as his Virgin Radio breakfast show edged up from 1,111,000 to 1,114,000. Marginal gains.

This article will explain where these listening figures come from.

Radio Gaga

Radio Audience Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) publishes radio listening figures for the UK. The BBC and Radiocentre own this research organisation. Radiocentre represent commercial radio stations.

Around 88% of UK adults (15+) listened to the radio each week in 2019 Q3. (Image: RAJAR)

Ipsos MORI conduct the fieldwork for RAJAR, finding adults and children (aged 10 or over) to survey in the UK. Whilst children are part of the survey, listening figures usually refer to people aged 15 or over.

Ipsos MORI select households to ensure coverage across the various radio services. Each interviewer gets up to 150 addresses across two small areas. Every fourth address highlighted for interviewers to try two calls. Other addresses are potential substitutes. There are stringent rules over the use of primary and alternative addresses.

Interviewers place diaries with one member in 15 different households, who has to be at 15 years old or over. Children and young adults can also asked alongside an older household member. Selected respondents may recruit others, increasing numbers within each sample. Survey researchers call this snowball sampling.

The 2019 Q3 survey covers 24th June to 15th September 2019. That survey has responses from 23,990 UK adults aged 15 or over.

Dear diary

Selected people answer a questionnaire, checking for eligibility and any potential conflicts. This questionnaire also records demographic details.

The interviewer uses a set of cards. These cards help people identify what radio stations they have listened to in…

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Anthony B. Masters

This blog looks at the use of statistics in Britain and beyond. It is written by RSS Statistical Ambassador and Chartered Statistician @anthonybmasters.