BBC 6 Music, the digital station that the corporation tried to axe, has celebrated its biggest audience of nearly 1.5 million listeners on the eve of its 10th birthday.
6 Music, whose presenters include Lauren Laverne, Jarvis Cocker and Elbow frontman Guy Garvey, had an average of 1.44 million weekly listeners in the final three months of 2011, according to the latest official Rajar audience figures published on Thursday.
There also were new record audiences for the 6 Music shows fronted by Cocker, Garvey, and its weekday afternoon slot presented by former Radio 2 pairing Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie, who drew 477,000 listeners a week. The station will turn 10 on 11 March.
The station's audience was up a quarter compared with same period in 2010 and it drew more than double the number of listeners it had when BBC director general Mark Thompson announced plans to close it in March of that year.
The threat of the axe prompted a huge protest from listeners and a big rise in its audience; it was later described as the best marketing campaign the station ever had.
With a 1.2% share of the total UK radio audience, 6 Music is now only a whisker behind BBC Radio 3, which has a 1.3% share of the audience. However, Radio 3 had rather more listeners, with an average weekly audience of 2.09 million.
There was also record audiences for two other BBC digital stations – BBC Radio 4 Extra, previously known as BBC Radio 7, which had 1.55 million listeners; and urban music station 1Xtra, which topped the 1 million mark for the first time with 1.02 million.
BBC Radio 5 Live, which has just completed its historic move out of London to the corporation's new HQ in Salford, lost nearly a million listeners to fall to its lowest audience since 2009. The rolling news and sport station pulled in 6.23 weekly million listeners on average in the final three months of last year.
It was marginally down on the previous three months but 12.2% down on the record 7.09 million that it drew in the final quarter of 2010.
The latest figures are the lowest since its audience of 6.11 million in the final three months of 2009.
The year-on-year fall of the station's share of the audience was even more dramatic, down a fifth to 4.3% from 5.3%.
A Radio 5 spokesman said it had been a record audience for the station at the end of 2010, when its audience was boosted by its coverage of England's victorious Ashes tour of Australia.
The spokesman said: "Radio 5 live continues to perform strongly, with 12 successive quarters above 6 million it remains highly rated by our audience. A year ago we had the excitement of the Ashes which were a key feature of many 5 live programmes including Breakfast and without doubt attracted large numbers of listeners. The figures quarter on quarter are virtually unchanged."
Nearly all of 5 Live's programmes are now broadcast from the near-£1bn BBC North offices in Salford, which are also home to BBC Sport and BBC Children's and will soon accommodate BBC1's Breakfast programme.
5 Live has faced increased competition from its commercial rival TalkSport in recent years, and lost a third of its live Premier League football matches to TalkSport and Absolute Radio at the beginning of the 2010/11 season.
TalkSport, which had exclusive live commentary of the rugby World Cup in the last quarter of 2011, had an average of 3.2 million weekly listeners, up 3.5% year on year.
Among the other BBC stations, BBC Radio 4 marginally missed out on a new high, up 5% year on year to 10.83 million, just behind BBC Radio 1, which was up 2.1% on 2010 to 11.67 million.
BBC Radio 2 remained by some distance the UK's most popular station, up 2.3% year on year to 14.27 million.
Absolute Radio had 1.6 million listeners, down marginally on the previous quarter but up 16.3% year on year.
Absolute 80s remained its biggest digital station, up nearly 25% year on year but down 18.7% on the previous quarter to 828,000.
Classic FM, owned by Global Radio, had a weekly reach of 5.36 million, down marginally on the previous three months and a fall of 6.2% year on year.