In car entertainment

Radio Two is top of the pops in battle for the ear of the driver

8 July 2009

A battle of the airwaves is raging on UK roads between middle-aged drivers who compete to put either BBC Radio 2 or their local independent radio station in the listeners' top slot, AA research reveals.

On the 80th anniversary of the introduction of the car radio, BBC Radio 2 has the edge with 20% of the 13,900 AA members surveyed by AA/Populus picking it as the station they are most likely to listen to in the car. However, 18% of their fellow drivers favour their local independent station.

The biggest fans of BBC Radio 2 drive-time listening are 28% of 55-64 year olds, while local independent radio stations draw the bulk of their support (22%) from the 45-54 year olds.

BBC Radio 1 steals the show for young drivers, pulling in 50% of the 18-24-year-old audience and accounting for 18% of the total driver listenership. Meanwhile, another fifth (22%) of the late middle-aged drivers tune into BBC Radio Four while on the road.

Nearly half of women drivers share their radio time with BBC Radio Two (21%) or the local independent radio station (22%).

Regionally, independent local radio stations topped driver demand in Scotland and Northern Ireland while sharing favourite spot with BBC Radio 2 in the South. BBC Radio 2 also has a strong grip on drivers in Wales, beating the independents 28% to 17%. Londoners show a particular preference for non-mainstream radio with the 19% majority selecting "other" stations.


"It is ironic that, in the early days of car radio, many warned that it would be impossible to drive safely and listen. Indeed, when Paul V Galvin put the first radio in a car 80 years ago, listening was made more difficult due to engine and road noise," according to Edmund King, the AA's president.

"Nowadays, the vast majority rely on their car radio to entertain them, to help them stay alert, or catch up with news and travel. 'Drivetime' is now firmly established in the lexicon of the road and radio.

"A recent debate on the AA Zone established songs like 'Road to nowhere', 'Road to hell','Hotel California' and 'Bat out of hell' as favourite drivetime tunes, but the number of radio stations available ensures that variety is the spice of life in the car. Let us know your all time classic Drivetime song on the AA Zone."

Going digital

Will going digital leave drivers in the quiet?

There may be a problem for drivers on the road ahead as all the UK's national radio stations and many local stations will stop broadcasting in analogue in 2015 when they go digital.

Many drivers could be left in the quiet unless they can get an adapter or digital car radio. The Government setting a deadline for the switch-over will concentrate the minds and although time-scales are tight, new cars after 2013 will be digitally compliant.

The switch to digital has been driven by broadcasters but the AA is concerned that not enough thought has been given to consumers with older vehicles. Some may be able to use adapters but there are still many technical and security issues which have not been adequately addressed. "Mondeo Man will not be happy if he can't listen to Chris Moyles or Chris Evans in five years time," said King.


The AA/Populus survey of 13,905 AA members was carried out 2-9 June 2009.

Which radio station are you most likely to be listening to on the radio when you are driving?

(Answer: percentage in favour, age most popular with)

BBC Radio 2 – 20%, 55-64(28%)
BBC Radio 1 – 18%, 18-24(50%)
Independent local radio station – 18%, 45-54(22%)
BBC Radio 4 – 12%, 55-64(22%)
Other – 8%, 18-24(13%)
BBC Radio 5 Live – 5%, 35-64(18%)
Classic FM – 4%, 65+(18%)
BBC local radio – 4%, 65+(12%)
Talk Sport – 2%, 35-44(3%)
Absolute (Virgin) – 2%, 25-44(6%)
BBC Radio 3 – 1%, 65+(3%)

Drivers' favourite radio stations, by region:

London: Other 19%, BBC Radio 4 15%, Independent local 14%
South: BBC Radio 2 20%, Independent local 20%, BBC Radio 1 19%
South West: BBC Radio 2 23%, BBC Radio 1 19%, BBC Radio 4 15% & Independent local 15%
Wales: BBC Radio 2 28%, BBC Radio 1 21%, Independent local 17%
East Midlands: BBC Radio 1 24%, BBC Radio 2 20%, Independent local 18%
East Anglia: BBC Radio 2 24%, BBC Radio 1 21%, Independent local 14%
Yorks/Humberside: BBC Radio 2 22%, Independent local 21%, BBC Radio 1 19%
North West: BBC Radio 2 22%, Independent local 21%, BBC Radio 1 19%
North East: BBC Radio 2 24%, Independent local 20%, BBC Radio 1 18%
West Midlands: BBC Radio 1 21%, BBC Radio 2 19%, Independent local radio 17%
Scotland: Independent local radio 25%, BBC Radio 2 20%, BBC Radio 1 16%
Northern Ireland: Independent local radio 25%, BBC Radio 1 21%, BBC Radio 2 12% & BBC Radio 4 12%

Join the discussion in the AA zone


4 August 2009