BBC Trashing 13 UK Medium Wave Transmitters

So the BBC has decided to turn off 13 of its Medium Wave radio transmitters.

The BBC is meant to be a public service, so in principle, saving money is good, but not if listeners are deprived from services. However, as MW use in Britain is probably pretty low now, the BBC will likely get away with it this time.

But some of the BBC local stations do occasionally split services to cover things like local sports events on MW only, leaving regular programs on FM. BBC Gloucestershire does this now and then, but I see they are not on the current list to lose MW yet.

I’m not sure how the BBC would get on removing national MW services, e.g. Virgin Radio possibly still has some audience on MW.

The Beeb’s decision is, of course, all to do with cutting transmitter running costs and the smaller but important costs of line-links and transmitter and mast maintenance.

Of course, the longer term issue is what is going to happen to the MW band? The obvious answer I wish for is to see the reworking of these frequencies using digital DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale), which would give all sorts of possibilities … e.g. multiplexing of channels, an emergency alert system for the whole country and some small video content alongside radio.

But, so far, I don’t see any appetite for doing this. The BBC would probably say they could not accept the necessary capital costs and it would need the usual long-term blessing from OFCOM – and we know only too well that they are driven by political people at Westminster, who either don’t really know about the situation, or are driven by thoughts of avoiding expense … especially now when the Government faces huge capital spends reworking hundreds of high rise buildings, etc..

Is there an appetite from entrepreneurs to apply for use of some MW frequencies and start DRM? Somehow I don’t think so. Its not the same situation as in the 1960’s when there was a wide-open opportunity with a huge number of listeners equipped and ready-to-go with conventional MW sets.

It’s unlike India where the government has made the political decision and converted All India Radio to DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) without a huge number of receivers out in the population. They clearly live in hopes of building new receiver business in the country.

Listening to BBC Radio Without Tears

A few days ago CIB’s David Prewett sent me a link to Jack Schofield’s article in “The Guardian” of 5th March 2015 with the headline: “Do I need to buy a new internet radio to listen to BBC Radio?”. In it he suggests ways to resolve the negative consequences of the BBC’s recent decision to drop support for some internet streaming formats such as WMA and AAC which has led to many UK internet radio listeners being left out in the cold.

When suggesting how listeners can resolve the issue, Jack Schofield correctly points out that BBC radio streams can be accessed using almost any PC, smartphone or tablet. However, he fails to mention a useful little tool which has been around for a few years that can easily resolve many radio listening problems both at home and in the car.

So what solution am I referring to?

Well, this little device is usually hardly larger than a pack of cigarettes and can be used almost anywhere since it is powered either by a couple of AA batteries or your car’s cigarette lighter socket, or any USB connection. Of course, if you prefer, you can always use a wall socket.

Just plug this device into your PC, smartphone or tablet at home or on the move and it will play any radio station you have tuned to, through any FM radio receiver within a radius of up to 50 yards. That will certainly be a big enough range for any car and in almost all homes unless you own a vast mansion!

These useful little devices are called FM transmitters and need not cost more than about $100.00, sometimes less. You can select to transmit in Stereo or Mono on any FM frequency from 88 to 108 MHz.. You should, of course, follow any local regulations but it won’t usually cause a problem since the transmitting range is limited.

Finding a suitable FM transmitter isn’t too difficult. A Google or Amazon search will bring up a range of devices to choose from. As for me, I’ve installed two of these FM transmitters from WholeHouseTransmitter.com in my home. They include all the connector leads you need and the transmitters have been giving me excellent service with no problems for more than two years.

2 more Quick Tips to help overcome the recent BBC radio stream changes…

1. Avoid the “Listen Now” buttons on BBC and other UK radio websites. Instead use a comprehensive and regularly updated free portal like http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk as mentioned in the Guardian article.

2. Use VLC as your default media player. VLC is an open source, cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. There are versions for PC, Mac, Android, all free at: http://www.videolan.org/.