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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Yes solved this problem by just listening to my local radio so goodby to Zoe and Ken
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.
I cannot get Alexa to play radio 2, it just stopped working
Method 2 works for me. Why is trying to get bbc radio sooo difficult?
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!
Hi that’s what happened yo me this morning.. how do I get bbc2 back..x
Re not working 28th, you can tell Alexa to “open bbc sounds, then play bbc radio 2”
Great tip, Matt. Have updated the piece.
Has anyone tried my solution and found that it worked?
Make the Echo its own preferred speaker
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.
I have recently purchased an Amazon echo device with Alexa, (I have 2 now as one was bought as a Xmas gift). I do not own a smart phone so how do I access the Alexa app? All I want to do is listen to radio 4!
I’ve tried to listen to BBC radio on Alexa, such a hassle, gave up in the end. Now listen to local community stations instead. And I’m not the only one. Bye Beeb.
Same problem in France. A search in skills for “BBC Sounds” gives 56 French results but no BBC Sounds. Currently Googling how to spoof the Alexa location to be able to see the UK skills list but no success yet. Has anyone found a work around?
Yes Chris ask Alexa to play music. After it has started playing ask it to play radio 2
February 2023: My Echo Flex plays the BBC Sounds jingle then silence. Switching it off and on again, and waiting for it to reboot, temporarily fixes the problem. Until the following day.
Also on multiroom (yes I know BBC doesn’t work but Apple Music does) the same Echo Flex forgets it’s part of the everywhere group until either I switch it off and on again or, when that sometimes fails, I have to delete it from the “Everywhere” group and then add it again.
Maybe I’ll wait until the next Amazon sale and replace it with an Echo Dot – mine don’t seem to suffer the same problem.
I’ve found if you ask for “Radio 2” or “Radio 4” you get something completely random. You have to ask for “BBC Radio 2” and then it finds the right station. But you need the Echo to be in the UK (at least virtually) and have linked to the BBC Sounds skill and logged in with your BBC account first.
Unfortunately rhe advice above does not work if you are in France. Presumably the BBC wants to restrict it’s radio services to UK only, after Brexit and now that it is managed by the Tory party? This must really help visually impaired people too, who found smart speakers invaluable!
I tried to get the BBC Sounds Alexa ‘skill’ working on my 88 year old mother’s Alexa smart speaker whilst visiting her in the Lot area of France in January 2023. It worked OK when I connected her Alexa speaker to my UK Amazon account. “Hooray” I thjough. I just need to connect her Alexa speaker to her UK Amazon account and Bob’s your uncle. But no, that did not work. Her Alexa device is owned (i.e. linked to) and managed from her French Amazon.fr account and that functionality stepped in and forced us onto searching the French Alexa skills library, which does not include BBC Sounds. I understand, especially given the state of their finances, that there might well French legal copyright reasons why the BBC might not want to pay some kind of French licencing fee for their skill to be included in the official French Alexa catalogue.
So I think I could have bodged a French solution for her, but only by having her Alexa speaker permanently connected to and managed by my UK Amazon account and believing it’s living happily in London. I bottled out at that stage, it seemed too complicated and cumbersome to explain to her and maintain long distance. And especially galling as every 30 minutes BBC Radio 4 exhorts you to use BBC Sounds.