Radio 3 has posted its highest audience ratings in three years as young people migrate to classical music, while Radio 1 fell to a record low.
New listening figures showed that Radio 3's weekly audience rose by 16.4 per cent to 2.13 million in the last three months of 2019. Radio 4 was up by 4.7 per cent to 10.98 million.
But Radio 1, the BBC's flagship youth station, slumped to 8.79 million, the first time in its history that it has dropped below nine million. The decline illustrates the difficulties that the BBC now faces in its pursuit of the under-35s. Five years ago, Radio 1's audience was over 10 million.
Radio 1Xtra, the urban music station, was also down by 6.5 per cent to 987,000.
The BBC said that more people now watch Radio 1 on YouTube and iPlayer than listen to it on radio, as mobile phones become the main method of consumption.
James Purnell, the BBC's head of radio and education, used the ratings, provided by the industry body Rajar, to promote the BBC Sounds app.
"The latest figures show some of the challenges we face across the radio industry with retaining a live listening habit amongst young people, whose audio consumption is rapidly changing.
"We are focused on keeping live listening strong and looking for new ways to do so, but we also want to ensure we offer more for our audiences however they want to listen," he said.
"During this quarter alone, we saw more than 100 million on-demand plays of our content on BBC Sounds, double the previous quarter, demonstrating the increasing popularity of our radio programmes outside of our linear schedules."
The Today programme added more than half a million listeners in the three months running up to the general election, to reach 7.17 million, despite the boycott by Government ministers. Radio 2's overall audience was down by three per cent to 14.4 million, with Zoe Ball's breakfast show more than 800,000 down on the previous year when Chris Evans was still at the helm.
Radio 3's breakfast shows helped to drive its figures. The weekday programme, with presenting duties shared between Petroc Trelawny and Georgia Mann, pulled in an audience of 689,000, up from 599,999 during the previous quarter. The weekend breakfast show, hosted by Elizabeth Alker, enjoyed its highest ratings since 2004.
Last year the station hired Jess Gillam, the 21-year-old saxophonist , as its youngest ever presenter. Her Saturday show, This Classical Life, features musicians aged 30 and under.
Across the board, classical stations gained listeners. Ratings for Scala, the new station that launched in March, were up by eight per cent to 249,000.
Classic FM added 324,000 listeners in the same period to retain its position as the nation's favourite classical station. The station has made efforts to attract a youth audience with shows such as High Score, the UK's first radio series dedicated to video game music, and Revision Hour, which is aimed at students.
James Rea, director of broadcasting for Classic FM's parent company, Global, said: "In our latest set of audience figures, 1.15 million under-35s now tune in to Classic FM every week and we need to welcome them to the station. That's why we embrace and champion everyday forms of classical music, including film and video game music, as well as more traditional compositions."
Alan Davey, controller of Radio 3, said listeners of all ages are looking for soothing music and respite from the relentless news cycle.
"Having a place where you can take time out from the world, listen to something in-depth and get a new perspective, is really important," he said.
What do you think is behind Radio 3 and Radio 4’s continued popularity? Share your view in the comments below.
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