Teen listeners, country format, suffer dramatic drops while overall CBC audience rises


OTTAWA - Public radio posted steady growth in listeners over the past five years, rising from sixth place to third among Canadians' listening choices in the fall of 2002, says a report released by Statistics Canada today.

However, at the same time, the gap in listening time continued to widen between teenagers aged 12 to 17 and adults aged 18 and over.

English- and French-language Canadian Broadcasting Corporation stations rose from 9.5% of audience share in 1998 to nearly 11% in 2002, taking third place overall. This spot was the longtime domain of country music, until it was pushed out by talk radio in 2001.

Public broadcasting's audience share grew in all provinces except Prince Edward Island, where the number actually declined, and Newfoundland & Labrador and Saskatchewan, where it has remained fairly steady over the past five years.

The same trend was evident in both linguistic groups. BBM survey data show Anglophones increased their listening time to public radio from 10.5% to 11.4% over the past five years, and Francophones, from 6.7% to 9.5%.

Public radio gained listeners from both younger and older age groups. While teenagers' share of CBC listening remained low, it increased from 1.5% in 1998 to 2.0% in 2002. The adult male share rose from 9.3% to 10.3%, and the adult female share, from 10.6% to 12.1%.

An aging population and an increasing number of people with a post-secondary education are among the reasons for public radio's gain in listeners, says the report. Its popularity increases by age group, reaching 22.1% of listening time among men aged 65 and older, and 23.5% among women of the same age. Attraction to public radio also increases with level of education.

Country music lost more than a quarter of the market share it had in 1998, falling from 13% to 9.5% of total listening. This decline was observed in every province, although to differing degrees.

The largest drops were reported in Newfoundland & Labrador and Saskatchewan, but despite the sharp decreases, residents of these two provinces and Prince Edward Island continued to make country music their number one choice.

Stations offering the adult contemporary format captured the lion's share of total listening, at 70% overall. With a quarter of total listening share, A/C continued to rank as Canadians' first choice, but the gap between that format and the number two gold/oldies/rock (18.3%) narrowed over the last five years.

American stations accounted for only 3% of Canadians' total listening, the same proportion as five years ago.

The most troubling aspect of this report for radio station owners has to be that the gap in listening time between teens and adults continues to widen.

While men and women aged 18 and over spent the same amount of time each (just over 21 hours a week) listening to the radio, about the same as they did in 1998, those aged 12 to 17 reduced their weekly listening time by more than an hour and a half, or 14.5% overall, from 11 hours a week in 1998 to 9.4 hours in 2002, widening the gap between teens and adults.

Young adults aged 18 to 24 also reduced their listening time, but not by as much as teenagers.

The folks back east in Canada's smallest province, PEI, continue to lead in radio listening coming in at 22.2 hours per week. British Columbia had the lowest rate, at 18.3 hours a week.

Despite competition from other forms of entertainment, radio listening continues to capture a significant share of Canadians' time. In the fall of 2002, Canadians spent an average 20.2 hours a week listening to the radio, a figure which has not changed in the last five years.

Those posting the largest drop in listening time were Quebec Anglophones. In the fall of 2002, Quebec Anglophones listened to radio an average 21.2 hours a week, down two-and-a-half hours from 1998, when they led the country in radio listening.

This downturn occurred among both teenagers and adults, with teens dropping from 11.9 hours a week in 1998 to 8.9 hours a week in 2002, adult men dropping from 24.5 to 21.2 hours a week, and adult women dropping from 24.8 to 23.4 hours a week.

Broadcast language and audience language also play a role in the choice of radio stations. Overall, Anglophones spend less than 1% of their listening time on French-language stations, whereas Francophones listen to 11% of their radio programs in English.

Those proportions have not changed since 1998, even after the CRTC introduced regulations in 1999 requiring French stations to broadcast 65% French music every day and English stations to air 35% Canadian music.

Over the last 10 years, as most in the industry know, listening to FM stations has grown at a phenomenal rate, at the expense of stations on the AM band. Because of their sound quality and radio content, FM stations have steadily expanded their market share and captured the majority of total listening time. In the fall of 2002, Canadians devoted nearly three quarters (74%) of their total listening time to FM stations.

The results in this release are based on a survey of 82,344 Canadians aged 12 and older. The data on listening cover seven specific days and were collected using a log-type questionnaire over an eight-week period from September 2 to October 27, 2002. While the return rate, at 44.4%, is modest by Statistics Canada standards, it is in line with Canadian and international broadcasting industry practice for audience measurement. It is recommended that the data be interpreted with caution.

The radio project of the Culture Statistics Program is a joint endeavour of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Department of Canadian Heritage, and Statistics Canada.

The Statistics Canada radio listening data bank integrates files from a variety of sources. The basic listening data are acquired from the BBM Bureau of Measurement and include the demographic characteristics of survey respondents. The information on specific radio station formats is provided by the CRTC.

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