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Why won’t BBC Radio play on Alexa?

BBc Radio Alexa
Unsound: the BBC app on Alexa is erratic

You wouldn’t have thought it would be too hard for a so-called smart speaker. After all, when Marconi legged it down to the patent office in 1901, he’d managed to make radio work on something a bit less advanced than an Amazon Echo speaker. But Alexa definitely has problems with BBC Radio. If you’re wondering why BBC Radio won’t play on Alexa, hopefully the advice below will help solve the issue and let you listen to Ken Bruce or Lauren Laverne in peace.

Update 8 April 2022: Judging by our web stats, many people are having problems with BBC Radio and Alexa at the moment. We've updated the advice below, which should hopefully help. If you're still experiencing problems, let us know on comments at the bottom of this article.

How to set up Alexa for BBC Radio

Listening to BBC radio stations on Alexa used to be easy. You used to ask her to play BBC Radio 2 and she would play it, using the TuneIn Radio skill.

Then the BBC decided that was far too convenient, yanked its leading national stations from TuneIn, and made us all install the BBC Sounds skill – which has proved erratic ever since. Now people complain that when they ask for BBC radio stations, they are either met with silence or they get a foreign radio station they’ve never heard of.

The advice below might not solve all your problems, but it will give you the best possible chance of getting a result.

Make sure Alexa is set to English United Kingdom

The first thing to do is make sure your Echo speaker is set to the correct language. If your device isn’t set to UK English, that can lead to the problem with getting foreign radio stations. To make sure the device is set to the correct language:

  • Open the Alexa app on your smartphone/tablet
  • Open More and select Settings
  • Select Device Settings
  • Choose the speaker in question
  • Select Language and make sure English United Kingdom is selected

Install the BBC Sounds skill

To listen to BBC Radio stations and podcasts, you need to install the BBC Sounds skill. To do this:

  • Open the Alexa app
  • Choose More in the bottom-right corner, and the Skills & Games
  • Search for BBC and select the BBC Sounds skill (don’t get confused with various other BBC skills, such as BBC News)
  • While you’re here, click on the BBC skill’s settings and link your BBC account to the skill. If you don’t have a BBC account, register for one here

The correct BBC Radio commands for Alexa

Now you’ve got everything set up properly and the BBC Sounds skill installed, you need to make sure you’re using the correct voice commands to get the BBC Radio stations. I’m going to give you three different methods. You can experiment to see which is most successful for you.

Method 1

The official advice is to say:

“Alexa, open BBC Sounds”

You’ll hear a BBC blang and then be asked to choose a radio station, podcast or programme. Once Alexa has stopped speaking, you can ask for a specific station/podcast/show without having to say “Alexa” again. Here you don’t need to be too specific about the titles you’re asking for. You can say “6 Music” or “Woman’s Hour” or “Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour” and you should get the relevant show.

Method 2

Alternatively, to cut to the chase, you can say:

“Alexa, ask BBC Sounds to play…”

And then issue the name of the station, podcast/show of your choice.

Method 3

This one’s even more of a shorthand, but tends to work only for radio stations and not specific podcasts or shows.

“Alexa, play BBC Radio 6 Music”

If you’re going to cut to the chase like this and ask Alexa to play a station without first invoking the BBC skill, it’s really important you use the station’s full name, such as BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio 6 Music etc. If you simply ask for “Radio 1” you risk getting foreign fare or some random tune off Amazon Music.

What to do when things go wrong

Even using the methods above, it’s possible to still be met with a wall of silence when you ask for a BBC Radio station. You get the BBC Sounds jingle and nothing else.

I’ve found the best way to get past this is to physically switch the Echo speaker off at the wall and restart the device. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that will bring the BBC stations back to life. This is why the app has worse ratings than Eldorado.

What about multiroom music?

Yeah, that’s out of the question. When the BBC switched from TuneIn to its own app, multiroom support went with it. That means you can’t have Radio 2 playing simultaneously on the Echo speakers in your living room and kitchen. That, apparently, is progress. Someone at the BBC should be prodded with a stick.

NOW READ THIS: Can you watch BBC iPlayer on the Amazon Echo Show?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

26 Comments

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  • I hadnt used my echo dot for a while found BBC sounds usual commands didn’t work met with wall of silence… your advice fixed my issue. Thank you very much. I don’t understand WHY the BBC need to be so awkward and convoluted about how you use their services. Inoticed on reinstalling the app that it requested access to my account information. Although like most I didn’t take my half a day to read through or personalise settings as if I refused all I wanted to give them access to I wouldn’t be able to play or use anything !

  • I cannot find the BBC sounds skill on the alexa app. I’ve changed the location to UK, I’m in the UK, but cannot see it as an option when I search BBC in the skills section on the app.

    • HI Angus, I am having the same issue – did you manage to fix it? If so please tell me how!! My husband just wants to listen to radio 5 live through the echo dot. Thanks.

      • I changed the language to English/Deutsch with the intention of going back to English but that made it work so I have left well alone. Nearly drove me crazy/got thrown out of window

  • 1. I can play Radio 4 on four echos at once. Of course, each has its own separate delay…
    2. No streaming after “BBC Sounds” announcement? You’re lucky if you fixed it by switching it off and on again. I fixed one with a factory reset. Two were unfixable until I came across the solution (for me) by chance. Set each Echo to be its own preferred speaker.

  • Spent an age getting bbc 4 to play on echo dot in uk. Now working.

    Linked Bbc account to alexa as above but all i got was ……something went wrong…. i already checked the dot language settings was english uk. But nothing worked till i clicked again on english uk and it updated itself. Everything working fine now.

    In alexa settings choose devices bottom right. Click all devices.. choose your device (ech dot) click gear symbol top right… move down to language.. click english uk.. mine then updated.. everything worked as before the bbc changed the setup.
    Hope this works for you.

  • Why do I get drop-outs when listening to BBC radio on my Amazon Echo? It can’t be the wi-fi as its OK on my phone.

  • Hi I can’t download bbc skills from my Alexa app as the skills section is in Italian?!
    Any tips how to rectify this please (my device settings are set to English, I’ve checked) ??

  • Thanks!!!! So glad I’m not going mad…AND I can stop slagging off amazon and direct my …frustration irritation and ire at the bloody BBC

    • I can’t even get the BBC skill to show on my Alexa application. I have been trying for six months, and SONOS stopped support of our devices today. Looks like I will just buy a regular radio.

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    After years of obeying my commands, the Echo Dot rebelled yesterday evening.
    I tried unplugging it… several times….to allow it to reboot but nothing.
    I tried changing the Echo for the one downstairs.
    Oddly, I cannot sleep without a quietly playing Radio 4/World Service in the background. Last night every time I asked for Radio 4, I was confronted with a station I’ve never heard of….or would want to again… playing crazy dance music!
    I wish I had found this article sooner….I was awake until 5am!

  • Once multiroom groups have been created try this. Alexa play music on downstairs. Check your downstairs group is playing. Then say Alexa play bbc radio 2. This works for me. The downstairs group I created plays radios 2 ok.

  • I live in France and am 78. I have lost Alexa and have no phone app for it. Used an old tablet and cant find the password book…Am I a hopeless case for getting BBC back ?

  • Oh thank you so much for writing this! I just had to go through and reset all the language settings and it has worked. I was ready to throw the thing away.

  • Thank you!! After dozens of attempts to link BBC account to Alexa, going through Alexa app to BBC link at top of the page that does not work! Then tried following your advice to second link to BBC sounds and at last found where to connect. Why is it so hard? Crazy!

  • To get BBC radio on multiroom I use the following commands:
    “Alexa play radio ‘two’ everywhere”.
    You will get something from TuneIn on your mutliroom speakers
    Then say, “Alexa play radio ‘two’ “- and it will play BBC radio ‘two’ everywhere.

    Hope it works for you.

  • Nope, used the Alexa app on my Android phone to link my BBC account and enabled push notifications and Alexa keeps saying my account isn’t linked when the app says it is. Echo show reduced to being an expensive cooking timer.

  • Followed every step at least 6 times..still no joy. Alexa keeps telling me I must connect my bbc account to listen. Which I have done. Then it says it will send a link to my iPhone but I don’t get any link! Given up. What a con! Why can’t things be left alone fgs!

    • I presume you have set up a group.
      Step 1 Alexa play music on group everywhere. Or your named group.
      Step 2 let Alexa play any music it wants to.
      Step 3 Alexa play radio 2.

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