The sad death of broadcaster Terry Wogan came as a shock to his millions of listeners who tuned into his popular daily morning programme. He called us his TOGS – Terry’s Old Guys and Gels. This charming Irishman with a touch of the blarney, will be greatly missed.
His daily audience of 8m (and later Chris Evans with 10m) had me comparing today’s radio listening figures with programmes of the past.
So let me pose a question.
What radio programme today attracts the record number of listeners?
I can almost hear our readers shouting The Archers.
Well close, but no cigar.
For the answer, we need to travel well back in time, and consider a 15-minute programme the BBC introduced to the nation in 1946.
This was a programme featuring three dare devil characters, who enthralled a listening public every night at 6:45pm on the then Light Programme.
It was introduced by a fast moving signature tune called Devil’s Gallop. The name of the programme was Dick Barton Special agent.
It followed the daring – do adventures of Captain Richard Barton, a right good egg, who, with his two mates Jock Anderson and Snowy White, encountered all manner of dangerous situations in trying to save the nation from disaster.
At its peak, this programme attracted an audience of 15 million. Granted we didn’t have many channel choices in those days, just the Home Service the Light Programme and for the highbrows the Third Programme.
In comparison, The Archers hit our airways way back in 1951
It was originally billed as “an everyday story of country folk”, but is now described as a contemporary drama in the fictional village of Ambridge located in the equally fictional county of Borchester.
Since it was launched, 17,000 episodes that have hit the airways, making it the world’s longest running radio soap opera.
So how does its audience compare with Dick Barton Special Agent?
It’s no contest really.
Dick Barton sat 15 million of us down before the wireless in the 40/50s. And whereas today The Archers is the most listened to non-news Radio 4 programme, it can claim only five million listeners, I say only – by modern radio standards that is still an incredible number bearing in mind the competition for air time these days.
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Peter Cook – Editor-in-Chief