Radio: latest audience research findings

Published 26|07|13

Executive summary

Ofcom has conducted two research surveys into listeners' attitudes towards radio, and local radio in particular

1.1 Ofcom has the following broad duties in relation to radio broadcasting:

  • Promoting the interests of citizens and consumers;
  • Securing the availability throughout the UK of a wide range of radio services which (taken as a whole) are both of high quality and calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests, and;
  • Securing, to the extent that we consider appropriate in each case, that local analogue commercial radio stations broadcast programmes which include local material, and that a suitable proportion of such programmes are locally-made.

1.2 Ofcom is required to draw up guidance as to how we consider the last of these requirements should be satisfied. This 'localness' guidance can be found at

1.3 These localness guidelines were significantly amended in 2010 to allow local analogue commercial radio stations greater leeway to share programmes, and co-locate, with other stations, and greater flexibility in the extent to which stations are required to provide local material and locally-made programmes. This has resulted in local station operators taking different approaches to local news and information provision, and hours of local production.

1.4 For example, networking has become far more prevalent, and some operators have also chosen to significantly reduce the length of local news bulletins.

1.5 Ofcom commissioned consumer research (both quantitative and qualitative) to help it understand any impact of these changes on audiences, and also to understand the role that radio serves for listeners, which elements are particularly valued, and which continue to be served uniquely by this medium.

1.6 In the broadest terms, the key objective for the research was to help Ofcom understand whether the public purposes which radio has traditionally delivered continue to be valued by listeners in the digital age, both from a consumer and a citizen viewpoint , and also to test current public satisfaction with local news and other content on local radio given the recent changes in this area.

1.7 The findings show that the public purposes of radio identified in 2005 remain and still hold value for listeners. They also show that local content is still important to, and valued by, listeners, who are generally satisfied with the current levels being delivered. In addition, our measures to allow greater networking and programme sharing whilst decreasing the number of hours of locally-made programming required to be provided outside of peak-time listening appear to have struck the right balance. Respondents in our research were satisfied with their current provision of local time-critical content, and felt that local programming was most important at peak times and that it was important for presenters to be locally-based at key times of day.

1.8 The reports of these two consumer research surveys - Radio: The Listeners' Perspective and Attitudes towards local radio - are being published alongside this summary document.