Monday, February 18, 2008

BBC World Service Ends Shortwave to Europe

The BBC World Service website says their remaining shortwave transmissions* to Europe will close today on Monday 18th February 2008.

This change is being made in line with listener trends in radio. Increasing numbers of people around the world are choosing to listen to radio on a range of other platforms including FM, satellite and online, with fewer listening on shortwave.

The asterix explains that DRM (digital shortwave) transmissions are unaffected, but frankly I think today is a rather momentous day, meaning the end of analogue shortwave as we know it in the developed parts of the world. Shortwave radio is certainly the medium of last resort. DRM has been a huge disappointment - more than 12 years since its official launch as a standard, there is still nothing in the mainstream shops. So the future is wifi, DVB-H, especially with NOKIA being the largest radio manufacturer these days. DRM now stands for "Doesn't Really Matter". For me, at least, the window of opportunity has now closed. The sun has set!


Unknown said...

The best way for me to listen to World Service appears to be my DAB radio, but that only works when I'm in the UK, and hardly the point of the broadcasts.

When traveling I end up tuning into Radio 5 or Radio 4 via wi-fi streamed over the net, and as living abroad appears to be the best way of getting a mention on any BBC service, BBC WS may gradually be making itself obsolete. A great shame as it continues to feed the brain in a modern way.

Jonathan Marks said...

There is still 648 kHz for most of North-Western Europe (Northern France, Benelux and bits of Germany, but frankly the wifi radio is the dream SW radio that analogue couldn't deliver. Yes, I know there are issues about scalability - but the ionosphere is bloody useless when you need it and only delivers "clothes peg" audio at the best of times. International broadcasters HAVE to get into the biz of providing us with tagged audio, including the live bits.

Anonymous said...

It is true that BBC World Service is now all news for most of the time. They used to have comedy (like Just a Minute) which balanced the network a bit. Now, if I need a laugh I pick the on-demand stream of the NewsQuiz on Radio 4. That show is a million times more dangerous than BBC WS's Newshour. But the award for the dullest show on WS goes to Outlook. No focus, no fun, no point.

Richard said...

For those of us in Eastern North America, this loss is primarily symbolic. Here, the African frequencies of 7120 (0400-0500), 7160 (0300-0700), 15400 (1500-2300), and 17830 (1100-2100) hold up reasonably well though certainly not as good as when frequencies such as 5975 and 9515 blasted in.

Jonathan's right -- Wifi radio is capable in ways that shortwave can't be, but wifi is not ubiquitous, and programs to create city-wide wifi services are running into trouble shortwave has always been a helpful backup.