UK Asian commercial radio listening boosted by lockdown measures

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While radio stations has witnessed a dip in commercial revenue due to the shutdown of various sectors in UK industries amid the coronavirus outbreak, commercial radio stations, including Asian brands are rejoicing with record amount of listeners tuning in during the lockdown.

In data published by Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio, 38% of commercial radio listeners are tuning in for an extra hour and 45 minutes each day since lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as they adjust to spending more time at home. These listeners are now tuning in for an average of 26 hours every week, compared the average time spent listening of around 14 hours a week prior to the health crisis.

The data commissioned by research agency DRG explored how the coronavirus crisis has changed listening behaviour in the short-term. Among a sample of more than 1,000 commercial radio listeners, the findings show that the ‘newly working from home’ i.e. those who normally work at an employer’s premises but are now working from home, are the real driving force behind the increase in radio listening, with 45% of this group listening to more radio now – on average for an additional two hours each day. The data suggests that listeners are generally more in need of radio to help them cope with being marooned at home.

With many stuck inside under lockdown in the UK, 90% percent of respondents agreed that commercial radio kept them in touch with the outside world, while a similar number agreed it kept them informed (89%). A further 84% – possibly missing regular social activities – said that radio keeps them company.

Talking to various Asian radio stations, Tony Lit MBE, Managing Director of Sunrise Radio told BizAsiaLive.com, “Radio listening across the spectrum is seeing an increase in audience and listening hours through online listening and Apps during the lockdown. Radio has shown over the decades that for many it’s a real live source of human companionship, and in the current crisis with the restrictions placed on all of us, something we’ve never faced or experience this before, radio is once again proving to be our perfect friend. A trusted source of information and entertainment giving audiences a real human connection, a companion, especially for those who maybe living on their own and experiencing the harsh impact of isolation.

“Sunrise Radio has seen a substantial increase over last month with its on-line audience up by 40%, and listening hours up 47%, with downloads of the Sunrise App up by 60% (Yr on Yr March’19-March’20). The Sunrise Team is committed to entertaining and connecting with its listeners during this difficult time helping them through this crisis. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate every one of my colleagues in the radio industry for the sterling job they are doing, so much inspiration and creativity. Oh and just one more very important thing…Support the NHS, stay at home and save lives!”

Adding his take on the ongoing scenario, Sunil Rohra, Lyca Media CEO, said that the interaction element on its stations had increased with a huge surge for song requests and dedications. He said, “Lyca Media introduced new show schedules and interactive features for both its stations, Lyca Radio 1458 and Dilse 1035 since the Corona lockdown and listeners are simply loving it! Since then listener interactions via dedicated Whatsapp numbers increased in many folds.

“We’ve also seen a massive surge in song requests and dedications. Since listeners are at home or working from home, they are now listening longer and engaging more with presenters. Being a responsible media, Lyca running many public awareness campaign along with series of live interviews around Corona with medical experts,” he added.

Raj Baddhan, Director of Sabras Radio expressed that the key factors during this time included a human voice for comfort, localness and the engagement with its listeners. Talking about this, Baddhan said, “During these difficult times, we’ve noticed a huge surge in listeners tuning into our Sabras Radio and Sanskar Radio brands. From the start, we agreed to ensure that we remain live as much as possible. Due to social distancing, some listeners may only be able to turn to radio as their companion and having a familiar human voice coming into their homes, along with regular interaction and local news updates about the virus, is being praised by our audience.

Baddhan added, “We’ve had many messages from listeners about how Sabras Radio and Sanskar Radio have filled in the void in their lives after being isolated from family members. We’ve extended our regular messages from Sabras’ resident GP and immigration consultant, on both on-air and online. We’ve also started new fun features on our Instagram to further interact with listeners. A lot of our production work is being done from home and thus we can turn around last-minute commercials like any other time.”

Surjit Singh Ghuman MBE, Managing Director elaborated on the approach they’ve taken during this national emergency, “Both Panjab Radio and Asian FX are seeing significant increases in online listening and the Panjab Radio app.

“In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for us to stay connected. As a cornerstone of the British Punjabi community, Panjab Radio understand how essential it is to keep our listeners informed and entertained and we are committed to continue running a full programme schedule with regular news updates from UK, Punjab in India and the rest of the world.

“Many of our listeners have family and friends all over the world tune in not only to be entertained but to keep informed too.

“Asian FX has introduced a weekly “Isolation Mix” aired on a Friday evening fusing Bollywood, Bhangra, British Asian, HipHop, RnB and more, bringing Friday night party night to your living room and our social media brain teaser competitions are proving popular.

“Conversely, there has never been a better time to advertise your brand, consumers are still spending and your commercial will reach a significantly increased audience.

“We can script and record a commercial in a safe and secure environment and get you on air in hours,” Ghuman concluded.

Meanwhile, Raj Parmar, Director at Sunrise Radio (Yorkshire) stated, “At Sunrise Radio based in Yorkshire, we have seen a huge growth in listening on our services via the different platforms we broadcast on. This is an ideal opportunity for brands and businesses to truly market themselves via radio and reach their customers.

“Radio is a trusted medium and the perfect companion providing entertainment, news, music and more to those in self isolation. We are also offering small businesses a FREE listing on our website directory. We urge everyone to be #besafe #stayhome #savelives.”

The CEO of Asian Sound Radio Network, Shafat Ali also spoke about the current situation. He said, “Asian Sound Radio has been the trusted voice of the Asian Community for the last 25 years across the North West of England.

“In the era of modern technology, I still think that Radio is and always will be one of the most powerful and trusted mediums of communication. Taking in the circumstances, we have had a few campaigns suspended but I believe it is important to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive one.

“We have suspended advertisement costs to all-faith based charities and community organisations to support appeals and to ease pressure on the NHS, following the guidelines provided by the Government. Our listeners are relying on us to not only keep them informed amidst fake news making the rounds but also keep them entertained during the lockdown. So, we have also teamed up with various Mosques and Religious Organisations to organise live Jummah Khutbas every Friday at 13:30 for our listeners.

“To the advertisers, I would like to say, that during this time there are a lot more listeners who are tuning in to get information through our advertisements. So don’t lose hope – if we work together and stay calm the storm will pass, as no storm lasts forever.”

The new research follows evidence from commercial broadcasters and radio stations across the UK, collected by Radiocentre, which showed a double-digit increase in digital listening following the beginning of the lockdown.

Updated: 20/04/20

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