The most popular radio stations in the UK

What are the most listened-to radio stations in Great Britain, according to the RAJAR audience figures? We take a look at Britain's best radio.

By James Cridland
Posted 1 August 2019, 1.04am bst
James Cridland publishes all the RAJAR audience figures for every radio station - here are Radio 2's audience figures for example. You'll find audience figures published here, linked-to from most radio station pages: and linked from some radio station owners too.

The figures below, however, also include radio station brands: we're treating "Heart" or "Kiss" as one station here, rather than each individual local radio service. This gives a clearer view of the popularity of station brands. These figures are based on RAJAR audience research ending June 2019.

The quick answer? The biggest radio station in the UK is BBC Radio 2. But it's a little more complicated than that.

The top 10 radio stations with the most listeners

Normally, when people ask for the most popular radio station, they mean the one with the most amount of listeners. This will always give national or London stations as a result, and ignore smaller, local radio stations - even though, in many areas, the most popular station is a local one.

  1. BBC Radio 2 (14.5m listeners every week)
  2. BBC Radio 4 (10.6m)
  3. BBC Radio 1 (9.6m)
  4. Heart (8.5m)
  5. Capital (7.2m)
  6. Classic FM (5.6m)
  7. BBC Radio 5 live (5.2m)
  8. Smooth (5.1m)
  9. KISS (4.2m)
  10. Magic (3.3m)


  • Hits Radio Brand, a group of local radio stations from Bauer which shares some programming and branding elements, reaches 6.5m listeners, which would place it at #6 on this chart.

The top 10 radio owners with the most listeners

It's also important to look at radio owners, since they have the market in commercial terms. Click through to discover the stations they own.

  1. BBC national radio (31.5m listeners every week)
  2. Global Radio (24.0m)
  3. Bauer Media (18m)
  4. BBC local/regional radio (7.6m)
  5. Wireless Group (5.1m)
  6. Communicorp UK (3.4m)
  7. BBC World Service (1.5m)
  8. UKRD (0.7m)
  9. Celador Radio (0.6m)
  10. Lincs FM Group (0.5m)
  • Bauer Media now own the bottom three of this list - UKRD, Celador and Lincs FM - though currently these operate as separate businesses.

The top 10 radio stations with the highest amount of listeners in their area

If you want to look at popularity based on how many people listen in their area (and thus, take on board local radio stations as well as national), then the 'reach percent' is the best figure to examine. This shows you people who've listened for at least five minutes a week, and takes no account of whether they listen any longer than that. Typically, this shows local radio stations in remote areas.

  1. Island FM (58% of people in their area tune in every week)
  2. Channel 103 FM (55%)
  3. Moray Firth Radio (46%)
  4. Radio Borders (43%)
  5. Yorkshire Coast Radio (42%)
  6. 3FM (38%)
  7. Wessex FM (38%)
  8. Northsound 1 (38%)
  9. IOW Radio (35%)
  10. Tay FM (35%)

The top 10 radio stations with the highest listening share in their area

The share of listening in a station's broadcast area is normally the best way of monitoring how popular a radio station is. This makes it easier to work out how popular the station's entire broadcasting output is, in comparison to others in its area.

  1. Island FM (40.3% of all radio listening in their area is to this station)
  2. Channel 103 (35.4%)
  3. Radio Borders (30.9%)
  4. West Sound (25.5%)
  5. Moray Firth Radio (24.4%)
  6. Yorkshire Coast Radio (21.6%)
  7. Lincs FM 102.2 (19.4%)
  8. BBC Radio Ulster (19%)
  9. Manx Radio (18.3%)

Actually, the biggest radio station in the UK is really...

If you purely count radio stations by the total amount of listeners they have — irrespective of whether they choose to listen — then the in-store station for ASDA supermarkets, ASDA FM, is the most listened-to radio station in the UK. It reaches 18,000,000 shoppers, and a further 167,500 staff, each week.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.