Radio 4’s Today programme hits a record 7.45m listeners

The Archers also soars in the ratings while the Radio 1 Breakfast Show's audience drops year on year

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BBC Radio had a mixed end to 2016, with Radio 4’s Today programme reaching a record number of listeners while Radio 1’s Breakfast Show ratings plummeted compared with the previous year.

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The current affairs programme on Radio 4 reached a highest-ever 7.45 million weekly listeners between September and December last year, according to figures released by audience research body Rajar, marking an increase of around 400,000 on the same period in 2015. This surge in the ratings coincided with developments around Brexit and Donald Trump’s election campaign.

The Archers, Radio 4’s serial drama, also reached its highest audience for the past three years. Its domestic abuse storyline culminated with Helen Titchener’s trial in September making headlines and being hailed as the “radio trial of the century”.

In contrast, listeners to Nick Grimshaw’s Radio 1 Breakfast Show dropped by half a million year on year, despite an upsurge of around 120,000 on the previous quarter.

Reacting to the Today programme’s figures, Bob Shennan, Director of BBC Radio and Music said: “In an era of fake news, echo chambers and significant shifts in global politics, the role of Radio 4’s Today as the trusted guide to the world around us is more important than ever. 

“As Today celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, Radio 4 listeners continue to wake up to world class journalism which scrutinises the headlines, holds those in power to account and enlightens them with stories that shape our society.”

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Audience figures released last August showed that Radio 1 lost almost one million listeners as BBC Radio 4 reached a record ratings high.