Melbourne flocks to 3AW, ABC during COVID-19 lockdown

Melbourne's radio listeners have flocked to news, current affairs and talkback during the city's unprecedented lockdown.

3AW's overall audience share has jumped by 3 percentage points since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its breakfast show posting a record 26.1 per cent share – an 8.8 percentage point gain.

Meanwhile ABC Radio Melbourne's audience share is up 3 percentage points overall and, like 3AW, has recorded gains in breakfast, mornings, afternoons and drive.

Melbourne radio hosts Virginia Trioli and Neil Mitchell.

The growth is mostly at the expense of the commercial FM networks, with Fox, Gold, Nova and Smooth's overall audience shares declining by around 2 percentage points. Kiis FM's overall audience share is down 0.9 percentage points, while Triple M managed to buck the trend with an overall gain of 0.9 percentage points in listeners aged 10 and over.

Tuesday's results are the first radio ratings survey in more than four months. Commercial Radio Australia – in consultation with research company GfK – cancelled three surveys this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Melbourne, the latest survey was conducted entirely via electronic diaries due to government restrictions.

Nine Radio's head of content, Greg Byrnes, said the results show an immense trust in radio news and current affairs.

“We’re humbled and grateful that given everything Victoria has been through, Melbourne has turned to 3AW’s presenters and newsbreakers in record numbers,” he said.

ABC Radio Melbourne boss Dina Rosendorff said she was proud of her team for working through the pandemic.

“We know our audience turns to us for trustworthy information in times of crisis,” she said. “These results prove we delivered on the vital companionship aspect too.

“We’ve also been working tirelessly to deliver for the audience on social and digital and through all the live streaming we’ve been doing. We know this multi-platform approach has also added to our listenership gains.”

Just like the ratings system, radio programs have had to adapt to life under COVID-19 restrictions. Kiis FM’s national drive hosts Will McMahon and Woody Whitelaw have broadcast from Whitelaw’s front porch in Melbourne, while Sydney breakfast presenter Jackie “O” Henderson recorded a month’s worth of episodes from hotel quarantine – first in Melbourne, due to filming Network 10's The Masked Singer, and later in Sydney after flying home to the NSW capital.

Nova's new national drive co-host, Joel Creasey, will not broadcast from the same studio as his co-stars Kate Ritchie and Tim Blackwell until government restrictions ease between the two cities (Creasey lives in Melbourne while Ritchie and Blackwell are based in Sydney).

Commercial Radio Australia’s chief executive Joan Warner said she could understand why there was a great deal of interest in the latest round of radio ratings but urged caution in interpreting the immediate results.

“[But] it’s important to keep in mind this is one survey and we have two more coming between now and Christmas to provide a clear picture of audience and listening trends,” she said.

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