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/.

1960’s Pirate Radio – Was It Legal?

It’s well known that successive UK governments of the 1960’s were unable to control the offshore “pirate” radio stations until the passing of the Marine Broadcasting (Offences) Act in 1967.

What is less well known today is that it was actually illegal for anyone in the UK to listen to the pirate stations because, since the stations were unauthorised/unlicensed, listeners were contravening the UK’s 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act.

The absurdity of prosecuting millions of UK residents for listening to music provided by Radio Caroline, Radio London, 390, 270, Scotland and several other offshore radio stations was not lost on the stations themselves and many will remember promotions they broadcast, such as this one in which a magistrate is sentencing a listener to have to listen to the BBC Light Programme for the rest of their life!

This promo also reflects on the policy of Harold Wilson’s Labour government and his Postmaster General, Edward Short, who were dogmatically set against any end to the existing radio monopoly and thus alienated a generation of young people. The script of the promotion went like this:

Magistrate: You have been found guilty of listening to an offshore commercial station. This is your 59th offence, therefore your punishment must be severe. I sentence you to listen to the BBC Light…
Defendant: Oh No!…
Magistrate: For the rest of your life!…
Defendant: Anything but that!…
Magistrate: Order, Order! – Any more of this contempt of court and it will be the Home Service!…
Defendant: (gulps)
Magistrate: That’s better!

Although the August 1967 Marine Broadcasting (Offences) Act caused all the offshore radio stations (except Radio Caroline) to cease broadcasting, it is also worth noting that this legislation, whilst criminalising anyone in the UK who advertised or supplied the offshore pirates, did not in fact make the stations themselves illegal. This point was taken up by a defiant Johnnie Walker in his words over Radio Caroline South at midnight on 14th August 1967, when the new law became effective:

“Radio Caroline would like to extend its thanks to Mr Harold Wilson and his Labour government for, at last, after over 3-1/2 years of broadcasting, recognizing this station’s legality, its right to be here, its right to be broadcasting to Great Britain and the continent, its right to give the music and service to the peoples of Europe which we have been doing since Easter Sunday 1964.
And we, in turn, recognise your right as our listener to have freedom of choice in your radio entertainment and, of course, that Radio Caroline belongs to you. It is your radio station even though it costs you nothing…”