If you have an internet radio, you’ve probably heard an announcement from the BBC saying it’s about to switch off its service in 2023. If you rely on your internet radio because you can’t get decent DAB or FM reception, this could be a massive pain. Is there anything you can do? Let’s find out.
Why is the BBC switching off internet radio?
To be clear, the BBC isn’t switching off all of its internet radio services. It’s switching off a service called Shoutcast, which is used by a lot of older internet radios and some newer models too. The BBC will continue to use two other streaming standards called HLS and DASH.
If you’re hearing a message on your radio saying your stream is about to be cut off, it uses the Shoutcast technology.
Why is the BBC doing this? Frankly, it looks like a cost-cutting exercise and a data-gathering one.
To quote the BBC’s own information page on this decision, it says:
As well as delivering better value, it will allow us to understand more on how our content is consumed. This forms part of our strategy for BBC Sounds and is important to help us improve the services we offer to our listeners.
It seems like yet another efforts to drive us towards the dismal BBC Sounds app.
Is there any way to continue getting BBC stations on my internet radio?
On its information page, the BBC rather unhelpfully states that you should contact your radio manufacturer. If you take a look out of your window right now you might see a buck flying past.
It appears the radio manufacturers were informed of this decision in the summer of 2022. But it’s not a simple job for the radio manufacturers to retrofit newer standards, especially on equipment that may now be a decade old or more.
For example, Cambridge Audio has put a statement on its website saying that:
We are currently investigating if anything can be done from our side to ensure that once the Shoutcast streams have ceased in mid-2023 our older range of network streamers can continue to play these stations. We are unable to comment on if this will be possible at the moment, but we will update this page when we have more information.
In my opinion, the BBC has shafted the radio manufacturers, who are now going to be dealing with lots of angry customers.
Whether or not you’ll be able to continue receiving BBC stations on your current hardware will be down to your manufacturer’s ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat. It may be possible the firmware upgrade will solve the problem, but I would consider that unlikely, especially on devices that are more than a couple of years old.
There are, of course, other ways of getting BBC Radio over the internet. For example, Amazon’s range of Echo speakers all play BBC stations and they won’t be affected by the switch off. Likewise you can play via any web browser on the BBC Sounds website. The BBC Sounds app for smartphones and tablets also offers live radio.
However, it does seem the BBC is going to shove a whole load of internet radio hardware closer to the skip with this decision. Not least because where the BBC leads, others will follow.