5 million listeners per week

Listeners love it local: community radio by numbers

Helen Henry, 15th April 2015
The latest research shows that 1 in 4 Australians tune in to community radio each week and spend an average of 17 hours listening. 94% of community radio listeners find community radio and its services to the Australian community valuable.

These are just some of the results of the latest Community Radio National Listener Survey. Delve deeper and the numbers paint a picture of why, how and who is engaging with Australia’s largest independent media sector.

When asked why they listen, the answer is local, local, local – local information, local news, local voices, local personalities and local participation. The sector’s specialist music programming and support for Australian music and local artists were also in the top five reasons that people tune in.

“This latest research reinforces that community radio is hugely valued by Australian listeners as a key pillar in the media landscape, and one which contributes to Australia’s open society, strong democracy and vibrant culture”, commented CBAA Chief Executive Officer Jon Bisset. “The sector continues to provide a high level of local content and a unique range of services and programs. Through these, it contributes to media diversity, promotes social inclusion and provides a diverse range of viewpoints that enrich the social and cultural fabric of Australian society”.

Community radio listeners are as diverse as the Australian population itself –

  • 54% are men, 46% are women.
  • More than 50% are aged between 25 and 49 years, with a third aged 55+ years.
  • Across the country, metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas have the same level of listening, and the Northern Territory has the most community radio listeners per capita.
  • A third of people who regularly speak a language other than English in their home listen to community radio.

The Community Radio National Listener Survey is a hybrid telephone and online survey of a representative sample of 10,000 Australians over the age of 15, across all Australian states and territories. It is conducted by McNair Ingenuity Research. The latest report marks the 10th anniversary of the survey.

Download the Fact Sheet for Australia below and get more statistics from the National Listener Survey here.

Find out how community radio stations can use this information to support sponsorship campaigns by watching this video and reading this resource.

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The latest listener survey for Australia’s community radio sector shows the highest national listenership on record. 


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.


Griffith University researchers in 2002 presented the final results of a national survey of community radio stations. The final report ‘Culture Commitment Community – The Australian Community Radio Sector’ contained a wealth of information on the sector and covered many ‘station–based’ perspectives on issues such as localism, funding and sponsorship, Indigenous and ethnic programming and training. A key criticism of this report was the lack of data on community radio audiences. Two years later, an expanded research team received funding from the Australian Research Council along with financial and in-kind support from Department of Communication, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA), the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF) and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) to investigate community radio and television audiences. This project is the first comprehensive qualitative audience study of the community media sector in Australia and responds to a need within the sector, from policy bodies and the broader Australian community, to better understand community broadcasters and their diverse audiences. Internationally, this project, in both scale and approach, is unprecedented. Thus, it heralds an exciting and pioneering stage in community broadcasting research. This paper outlines the aims and objectives of the project and our methodology for accessing Australian community media audiences. A qualitative engagement with the diversity of audiences characteristic of the community media sector has demanded new ways of doing audience research. This paper discusses some of the methodological hurdles we have crossed in our attempts to negotiate the research terrain and we raise some of the questions associated with the qualitative method and assert its validity and portability as a tool for better understanding and knowing the nature and composition of community media audiences in Australia.