BBC's Today programme boosts listeners to 7.2 million – despite boycott by Boris Johnson

New BBC Broadcasting House in London after BBC has announced cuts to Newsnight, 5Live and other news output, leading to around 450 job losses (PA)

The BBC’s flagship news programme boycotted by prime minister Boris Johnson has seen a boost in listeners, figures have shown.

Radio 4’s Today programme reached 7.2 million weekly listeners in the fourth quarter of 2019 – taking it back to a listenership similar to that from the start of 2019.

The boost compared to 6.6 million in the previous quarter and 6.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2018.

It comes despite a boycott by Boris Johnson and his ministers as part of an ongoing battle with the broadcaster.

The boost in the Today programme's numbers come despite Boris Johnson boycotting it (Getty)

Mr Johnson came under fire from Amber Rudd last month over his decision to ban ministers from major media appearances – Number 10 has refused to put any ministers up for interview on the Today programme since the general election.

The former home secretary said: "It really does feel like the wild west of politicians making it up as they go along. In the end if it becomes a case of 'the end justifies the means' - ie,  anything goes along as we're winning, I think we're in real trouble."

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During the election campaign, a Number 10 source branded the Today programme “irrelevant”, adding: “It is not a serious programme any more so we are not going to engage with it.”

The BBC has also previously warned that decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee will cut into its budgets for programmes and services.

But asked about the government’s boycott, Lord Hall previously said he didn’t think it would last “because I think there are important citizens that you need to reach”.

Amber Rudd has previously criticised Boris Johnson's boycott of the Today programme (PA)

The BBC in general also saw a boost in its listeners - climbing back over 50% of the listeners share after dropping below that number for the first time earlier last year.

All BBC stations drew 51% of the total audience in Q4 of 2019, up from 49% in Q3.

The corporation’s radio audience in the 15-44 age bracket also grew, up to 36% from 34% the quarter before.

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