More than 46 per cent of people who listen to the radio at home now do so on digital sets, compared with 45.6 per cent on analogue, in what will be seen as something of a milestone for the industry.
It is the first time digital, which includes DAB radios, the internet and radio stations on television, has overtaken the old style of radio, with 52 per cent now using a digital platform at least once a week.
The breakthrough will be seen as another step towards the digital switchover, which was once predicted to have happen by 2015 but has suffered some setbacks in take-up.
Latest figures, released by Rajar and analysed by Digital Radio UK, show digital listening makes up 37.9 per cent overall, encompassing those tuning in at home, work and on the move. Those listening in cars are still more likely to tune in to analogue radios.
Analogue listening across the board is at its lowest level ever, at 56.2 per cent nationally and already below half in London and the North West regions.
The change in listening habits has been fuelled by the sale of new digital radios and stations which can only be heard online and through DAB or television.
BBC Radio 6 Music has recently announced it has pushed its listening figures over the two million mark, to 2.08m, for the first time.
Radio 4 Extra, often considered a spin-off station to the traditional Radio 4, pulled in a respectable1.63m listeners; a rise from 1.57m last quarter and 1.59m last year.
Helen Boaden, director of BBC Radio, said of this quarter’s Rajar figures: “I’m delighted to see 6 Music and Radio 4 Extra continuing to thrive. The unique output of our digital-only stations has enhanced the appeal of radio in an era of ever-increasing digital competition.”
In the last year, the number of people listening to digital radio overall has increased by six per cent, with DAB listening in cars, vans and lorries rising by 29 per cent.
Overall, 48.9 per cent of the population – the equivalent of 26 million adults – now have access to DAB digital radio.
The figures will be viewed with interest by those tracking the march towards the digital switchover. In order for it to happen, and a firm timetable to be laid out, half of all radio listening must be digital, with enough transmitters to reach 90 per cent of the population, all major roads, and the equivalent of the number of people currently receiving FM.
Originally, it had been suggested it could happen as early as 2015, with estimates being pushed back to 2017 several years ago and now mooted for towards the end of this decade.
If growth continues at current levels, the number of people listening on digital could break through the 50 per cent barrier for the first time in 2017.
Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, the body overseeing the growth of digital radio in the UK, said: “The shift to digital listening continues, with digital listening in home now overtaking analogue listening, and DAB is leading the way.”
Jane Ostler, communications director, added the majority of radio listening does happen in the home, with the number of people choosing analogue going “gradually down and down”.
“People are switching off from analogue through a combination of factors, including an increasing diversity and choice of stations,” she said. “Research has shown us that once people get digital they say they wouldn’t want to go back.”