“A ban by local regulators in India on local FM stations carrying news from foreign broadcasters has resulted in a drop of over 12 million listeners between 1995 and 2002,” BBC World Service said on May 15, 2006, in an annual report on radio listenership across the globe.
BBC World Service presently enjoys 17.6 million listeners in India -- a rise of 1.2 million over last year. This continues the trend of increasing audiences in the country for BBC, and follows a rise of 4.8 million last year. This is the second highest annual increase in the country.
On the global front, it draws a record 163 million weekly listeners through its 33 language services. The new weekly audience figure, compiled from independent surveys around the globe, is an increase of 14 million on last year’s figure of 149 million. The new figure equates to around 50 per cent more listeners than any comparable international broadcaster, the BBC World Service said in a statement.
This new figure smashes the previous BBC World Service record audience of 153 million in 2001. BBC World Service Director Nigel Chapman said, “This record-breaking audience is an outstanding achievement against the background of fierce competition, fast-developing technology and rapidly changing audience demands in many media markets.”
“The challenges ahead for BBC World Service remain formidable, as they do for all broadcasters, but this is a strong and welcome indication that we are not only strengthening our impact in priority areas but are flourishing in the multimedia age,” added Chapman.
Over 10 million extra listeners are listening on the higher quality audibility of FM through partner stations and the BBC’s own relays around the world. BBC World Service is now available on FM sound in a record 150 capital cities out of a total of around 190, up from 145 last year.
Short wave and medium wave listening also showed an increase of around five million, particularly in rural areas in parts of East Africa and S E Asia (Burma, India and Nepal), which are among priority areas for BBC World Service.
The BBC World Service audience figure contributes to a combined record global weekly audience of over 210 million individuals to all the BBC’s international news services – BBC World Service radio, BBC World television and the international-facing online news service bbcnews.com; some of whom are using all three media. This combined figure includes a record 65 million weekly viewers for BBC World – the commercially funded international television news channel.
Online audiences to the BBC’s international news sites have also shown significant rises. The sites attracted around 500 million page impressions a month in March 2006 compared to 324 million page impressions in March 2005. This is a rise of over 50 per cent over the previous year. The site now attracts around 33 million unique users each month; up from around 21 million unique users a year ago.