The radio listening figures are out and its confirmed that the BBC Asian Network continues to stay ahead of its rivals – but only slightly.

According to RAJAR figures released today for the last quarter ending December 2005, both the BBC Asian Network and Sunrise Radio saw a significant drop in listeners but the former still managed to win the Asian radio station war nationally.

The BBC Asian Network previously with an audience reach of 524,000 has seen a huge drop to 420,000. The station, which currently is undergoing a major overhaul, has shed over 100,000 listeners in the last quarter alone. The audience share remained untouched at 0.3%, same as the previous quarter. Number of hours listeners tuning into the Asian Network has also built over the past three months. Listeners have begun tuning in longer, now standing at over 7.8 hours.

Its nearest rival Sunrise Radio has edged closer in the last quarter. Also seeing its audience reach drop from 485,00 to 412,000, Sunrise is standing right behind Asian Network with only 8000 listeners separating the two. The London commercial station’s reach has remained steady at 0.4%. Listeners have also begun tuning in longer to Sunrise from 9.1 hours to 10.1 hours, much more than rival Asian Network.

Sunrise Radio’s two other stations Kismat Radio and Yarr Radio have also witnessed a change in the ratings. Kismat Radio, which is available on 1035AM in London as well on digital is currently undergoing a change in programme structure under new programming head Sunny Kapoor. Its audience reach took a shot upwards from 42,000 listeners in the quarter ending September 2005 to 60,000 listeners at present. However, number of hours listeners tuning into the speech based station has dropped from 6.0 hours to 4.1 hours.

Sunrise Radio’s Yarr Radio, which is a digital only station saw a big drop from an audience reach of 37,000 to 29,000 in the last quarter.

With Sunrise Radio pumping in more money into Kismat Radio and BBC Asian Network revamping its schedule in April, the next quarter of results will show an interesting change. Keep it with Biz Asia for the latest.

Other UK based Asian radio stations such as Radio XL in Birmingham, Sabras Radio in Leicester and Asian Sound in Manchester do not subscribe to RAJAR.