Summary:

By John Plunkett: The BBC’s threatened digital radio station 6 Music has enjoyed a big audience increase with a 50 percent rise in online li…

By John Plunkett: The BBC’s threatened digital radio station 6 Music has enjoyed a big audience increase with a 50 percent rise in online listening, according to new figures released today.

6 Music, which is due to close at the end of next year under proposals put forward by BBC director general Mark Thompson, had 133,653 average weekly unique online listeners in March, up 50 percent year on year. 6 Music has leapfrogged BBC Radio 3, which had 97,342 listeners, in terms of online listening.

The year-on-year increase in online listening was the biggest of any of the corporation’s national stations, boosted, no doubt, by the huge publicity which the closure proposals generated.

6 Music registered more than twice as many live listening hours as Radio 3, with 1.6 million (more than doubling in a year) compared with the largely classical station’s 710,605.

Digital radio sibling the BBC Asian Network, which also faces closure, grew its online audience by 33 percent over the same period.

The proposal to scrap the station provoked an unprecedented protest from listeners, trade unions, politicians and 6 Music’s own DJs.

6 Music had an average weekly reach across all platforms of 695,000 in the last three months of 2009, according to the latest available Rajar figures

The station’s first official Rajar listening figures since the closure plan was announced will not be published until next month. Rajar figures measure listening across all radio platforms, including digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio and digital TV, as well as AM and FM, on which 6 Music is not available.

When he outlined the potential closure, BBC director general Mark Thompson said the station was “expensive … given its relatively small audience”.

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This article originally appeared in © Guardian News & Media Ltd..

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