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BBC Radio Lincolnshire continues to haemorrhage local listeners

BBC Radio Lincolnshire has lost thousands of listeners in the last year, as commercial stations take further market share from the BBC amid cuts. The latest figures from Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) reveal that the station reached 66,000 weekly listeners in the last three months of 2023.

That was down by 6% from 70,000 in the same period of 2022, which was already a drop from 86,000 listeners a week at the end of 2021. The average amount of time people spend listening to BBC Radio Lincolnshire has also decreased in that time.

On average, listeners spent 5.8 hours a week tuned into the station at the end of 2023 – down from 8.2 hours in 2022, and 9.1 hours in 2021. The figures come amid controversial cuts to the BBC’s local radio output, with the broadcaster scaling back on its provision in order to expand its digital local news coverage.

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The BBC has decided to share more programmes across its 39 local stations, and is in the process of axing some of its presenters, with dozens of posts lost so far. At the same time, it plans to create 11 investigative reporting teams across the country, increase its daily online news provision for 43 local areas, and launch dedicated websites covering Bradford, Wolverhampton, Sunderland and Peterborough.

However, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said it was “too early” to connect the changes to any drops in audience numbers. They said: “It has been a period of significant change across our local radio network but it is too early to make any links between the latest RAJAR figures and our new schedules.

“Any audience losses are disappointing and this has clearly been a difficult RAJAR for speech radio.” Overall, the BBC has lost nearly 800,000 local radio listeners in the last year, with fewer than 7.0 million people tuning into their stations a week in the last three months of 2023.

That was down from 7.8 million weekly listeners in the same period of 2022 – a drop of 10 per cent – and compares to 9.0 million at the end of 2021. In comparison, more than 27.0 million people listened to local commercial radio at the end of last year – up nearly 7% from 25.4 million in 2022, and just 24.3 million in 2021.

BBC Radio Berkshire has seen the most significant drop in the last year, with weekly listeners falling by 38% from 118,000 at the end of 2022 to 73,000 at the end of 2023. However, several stations have seen an increase in listeners, with BBC Radio Wiltshire/Swindon, BBC Three Counties Radio and BBC CWR seeing the biggest upticks.

The BBC was previously ordered to work more closely with publishers amid growing concerns about the threat it poses to the future of independent local news. Across the UK, the BBC has scrapped dedicated local programming on local radio stations after 2pm on weekdays and throughout most of the weekend, instead hiring more local journalists to write stories for the BBC News website, often writing articles already being produced by existing local publishers.

Publishers say the BBC’s licence fee model, which enables it to publish stories without adverts and using state-of-the-art technology, gives it an unfair advantage which could ultimately drive some historic local news titles out of business. Lincolnshire Live has said that the BBC’s push into online news needs to be stopped in its tracks before it silences Lincolnshire Live and others.

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