How to use free National Listener Survey data

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, CBAA, 29th January 2019
Did you know that you can use the CBAA's National Listener Survey (NLS) data to communicate your station's important role in your community to government, grant providers and potential sponsors?

Stories are meaningful when they are memorable, impactful and personal. Data can be a powerful 'impact' tool - adding factual information from a trusted source to your station's story and the documents that you use to persuade your supporters.

As a community radio station, you can use the CBAA's free NLS fact sheets, which include information on community radio listening nationally, in the five mainland capital cities, all states and territories and non-metro areas (e.g. non-metro Queensland).

Choose the fact sheet most relevant  to your station to create an example of what your listeners may be like, using these tips:

Identify the audience of your pitch

Do you want to sell more sponsorship? Or are you applying for a specific grant? The kind of information you want to convey will depend on your audience - what matters to them?

Think about what they'll want to know. For example, when selling sponsorship, a business will often want to know how many people listen to your station or how big the community radio sector is (particularly if they are unfamiliar with it). The July 2018 NLS data saw 5.7 million people listening to community radio each week. This is 29% of the Australian population. Your station is part of this huge sector. And 5% of those listeners don’t listen to commercial radio or ABC/SBS – so by supporting your station, businesses are reaching listeners that they might not reach via other services.

Convey your station’s value

Stakeholders, such as local government or partners, love a feel good story. You can use the data on why people listen to community radio to demonstrate its positive impact and importance to your community. Top reasons for listening include: for local information/local news and local voices/local personalities. This emphasises the power community radio stations have in connecting with their local communities. What does your station do to meet these needs? Data like this can be used to support discussions you might have with your local council regarding funding or residential support, for example.

The most popular time for listeners to tune in is between 5am and 9am and 9am and 12 noon. This is useful data to share with sponsors, since it may assist to support the higher cost imposed on sponsorship spots scheduled for these times of day.

Paint a picture of your listener

Who might your listener be? The free NLS fact sheets provide a wealth of demographic information, such as age, gender, work status, occupation, gross annual income and whether someone identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Consider putting together a few profiles of what some of your station's listeners might look like. This can help paint a picture to sponsors, who will be looking for a cross-over with their target market. For example, the ‘average’ Australian weekly community radio listener is female, 55+, is married or partnered with children at home, is the main grocery buyer, works full time and has a university degree.

Get data

The free fact sheets are available at

Want to know if your station is eligible to access more tailored data?

Get more information: or email Carolyn Saul at

This article was originally published in the November 2018 edition of CBX Magazine.

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Research offers access to critical information in both station operations and governance. Knowing the listening interests of your audience leads to well informed programming, for example.


In 2004 the first, national, statistically robust, quantitative assessment of the Australian community broadcasting sector’s audience reach was undertaken. Conducted by McNair Ingenuity, this research provided a major breakthrough in the wider shift to a more audience-centred approach to managing the sector. The findings, significance and implications of this research are considered here. Following recent developments in critical cultural policy studies, this paper locates this renewed concern for community broadcasting audiences within a ‘larger cycle of decision-making’ (O’Regan, Balnaves and Sternberg 2002: 2). The particular influence of developments such as the emerging spectrum market and the imminent transition to digital transmission systems is discussed. These developments are important to understanding why community broadcasting resistance to market-based conceptions of audience is being overcome, and how audience-centredness might be used to facilitate the continuing development of this ‘third’ sector of Australian broadcasting.


Commercial media ownership legislation is currently before a Senate Committee for review and, at the end of April, the CBAA will present to the committee on the importance of community radio should proposed changes go ahead.