Two thirds of listeners to commercial radio said they tuned in during the Covid-19 crisis because they trusted the medium, a new report has found.
Industry body Radiocentre says sixty-four per cent of listeners cited the medium’s delivery of ‘trusted news’ as a reason for tuning into commercial radio during lockdown.
Surveying a broad range of UK commercial radio stations, Radiocentre’s research aimed to explore “how radio has a unique and important role to play in times of emergency, uniting the nation”.
The report added the most significant public value provided by the radio sector is the regular news updates that broadcast trusted bulletins to a weekly audience of 36 million listeners (around two thirds of the population).
Commercial radio has also delivered public health information ads and updates throughout programmes, which the report says helps target demographics that are harder to reach through other media.
Responding to the report, John Whittingdale MP said that broadcasters have continued to provide listeners with trusted and relevant content when it was most needed.
The Minister for Media and Data said: “The commercial radio industry has played an extremely important role throughout the pandemic.
“The Government recognises the contribution of commercial radio during this period and will continue to do all that it can to support stations and their recovery over the coming months and years.”
The government-backed Audio Content Fund – launched in March 2020 with a £400k coronavirus support round – has provided funding for 28 projects including Heart’s Hometown Heroes showcasing short audio blogs from local keyworkers and inter-generational phonecall network Buddyline.
Much like the advertising campaigns offered by print media (such as Reach’s #IAmOpen scheme and the Mail’s £3m advertising fund for small businesses) commercial radio stations have created support schemes for local businesses.
DC Thomson Media have launched a Back to Business fund of £250,000 worth of advertising across radio, print and online; Jack FM produced a £100,000 advertising fund for Oxfordshire’s small businesses and charities.
Radiocentre’s new findings show since the start of lockdown radio stations have seen an increase in online listening of around 15-20 per cent on average, with news and information stations such as LBC seeing even higher increases of over 40 per cent.
The diversity of audiences was highlighted in the report, with 62 per cent of BAME listeners reached by commercial radio compared to 42 per cent at the BBC.
The report, entitled Commercial Radio: A Force for Good, also highlighted the campaigns and fundraising efforts by stations, including the broadcast of the Mental Health Minute in May which reached 20 million listeners on over 500 stations. The mental health awareness campaign heard contributions from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, singer-songwriter Dua Lipa and heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre, said: “Radio stations are acutely aware of the responsibility they have to their listeners to keep them up to date with accurate news and information. This is true at any time, but is especially important during a national emergency.
“Despite the recent challenges, commercial radio has continued to deliver significant value for audiences, not only in terms of even stronger news and information output, but also in broader types of public service content through initiatives on everything from mental health to charitable work, to providing a sense of community and companionship.”
“Ultimately, stations have a vested interest in providing the most compelling content for listeners”, Kenny added.
The full Radiocentre report can be read here.