BBC Predicts Internet-Only Radio in the Future

BBC-logo(The following is part news / part editorial)

According to a report going to Parliament for the BBC’s broadcast charter proposal, the BBC is preparing for an Internet-only world for broadcasting. This has prompted an investigation of other radio broadcasting services by Radio World magazine to get their take on this perspective. Part of the article “Is Broadcast Radio Doomed”  follows:

 Conventional radio and television broadcasting are doomed, eventually. Or so one might reasonably assume from reading “British, Bold, Creative,” the BBC’s broadcast charter proposal for the next decade of its mandate. The BBC’s 10-year broadcast charter is up for renewal in 2016. The proposal is the Beeb’s funding pitch to Parliament.

To be sure, the BBC didn’t use the word doomed, or put a timetable on it. However, over the next 10 years, “We will be moving to an Internet-fit BBC, to be ready for an Internet-only world whenever it comes,” states the BBC proposal. The only limiting factor will be to “move at the pace of our audiences”; ensuring that older subscribers have access to content on radio and TV as long as they need it.

Subsequent to issuing this proposal, the BBC announced that it is reorganizing its internal divisions along content rather than platform lines. For instance, “Each overarching division would have subsidiary divisions such as BBC Youth, a mooted subdivision of BBC Entertainment, which would include the online channel BBC Three, and pop music station Radio 1,” reported The Telegraph newspaper . . . .

In the current transitional environment, it is impossible to see just where broadcast radio will be in 10 and 20 years’ time. The BBC’s prediction of an inevitable “Internet-only world” notwithstanding, there are still many parts of the Third World where one-way radio broadcasts remain the only economical, effective way to reach mass audiences; no matter what advances are being made in 4G-and-beyond smartphones in the First World. Add broadcast radio’s resiliency in the face of natural and man-made disasters — compared to the frequent overloading and failure of cellular telephone networks during such incidents — and the notion of shutting down broadcast lifelines seems unlikely in these regions.

– See the full article at:

The demise of broadcast radio has been predicted many times in the past 50-60 years and yet it remains. Still there is a growing mindset in what I call  the Western culture’s business mindset that the pervasiveness of the Internet is the dominant factor in future media decisions. This is the same justification for various governments reducing or eliminating SW Broadcast budgets. After all “Everybody has the Internet now!”

This is a mistake, and belies a Western-centric view of the world. I cannot claim to know the real numbers, but I have little doubt the numbers representing Internet availability are inflated, partially because of assumptions and partially for selfish business interests.

In an ever-competitive entertainment market broadcasters (and governments) are naturally worried about such things as market share and the like, but this is only looking at things from one side of the coin. Anyone who uses the Internet outside of the home knows data fees can become enormous, and therefore we watch just how much traffic we pass through our wireless devices. (Yes I admit it – any place I go regularly which has “free Internet” gets loaded into my list of networks so as to keep my data charges down.)

How many people are going to listen to radio streams like they do now to radio broadcast stations? Are you going to drive home with your radio on through the Internet? I doubt it. Similarly how many people listen to the radio in places where there would be no coverage of wireless? I believe the market share would decrease rather significantly in these same western cultures where the Internet is indeed plentiful, but not certainly not free.

Having been involved in the early days of the public Internet back in the 90s, I remember meeting with city planners when they were looking to offer free Wi-Fi within the city so everyone could have access. While the idea sounded good, the logistics of equipment, and more importantly the expense of such an ongoing system, quickly laid such plans to rest for most government budgets.

I hope the pendulum swings back over time and business leaders and government officials recognize the value of both shortwave and OTA radio broadcasts. The Internet is a shiny diversion to be sure, but it is not the answer to all of our media needs. And whether folks like to admit it or not, the Internet is a fragile thing. As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. How many times a year does your Internet service go out for no apparent reason, much less because of weather or other disasters?

Broadcast radio needs to be supported for many of the same reasons as shortwave radio – there simply is no more reliable way getting information out to the most number of people over the greatest possible coverage area.

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

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22 thoughts on “BBC Predicts Internet-Only Radio in the Future



  2. Bob C

    And what is the first thing that a government does before taking some sort of civil action (martial law, a crackdown, etc.) in a country? They take out the internet. It’s the easiest thing to do and can be done in an instant. And then what? The people in that country are left without any source for information – unless they have radios.

    Radio (be it SW, MW, FM or even LW) is the most robust media for the broadcast of information. The internet is great, but it’s not robust – nor is it available everywhere. And even where it is available, it goes down. Any major storm, civil insurrection, or even hacking can take down the internet in your area. And it costs money. Sure, I afford it – but not everyone pays for high-speed broadband and has a wireless router. Much of the world does not have access to these things. But pretty much all have access to a radio.

    Proposals and prognostications, such as the BBC has posited in the article above, belie an intellectual laziness and a firm commitment to cutting costs and doing things “on the cheap”. Well, cheaper is not necessarily better and this is a glaring example of that truth. Clearly, anyone who thinks that the internet can simply replace radio (which is extremely portable and robust – as said above), is rather narrow in their thinking. As in: “gee, everyone I know has wifi; cellular data costs nothing to me; and I can stream at Starbucks – so who needs radio?” Yeah, that’s fine if you make a six-figure salary and live in a wealthy area of a major city. But it’s not true elsewhere. For example, I rarely stream on my smartphone unless connected to wifi. Hence, it’s radio in the car. Or if I’m out and about walking the dog – radio rules again. In the house, internet streaming is more convenient. But that’s a luxury. And broadcasters should consider it as such, lest they should render themselves obsolete.

  3. Mario

    Great post Bob!

    You cannot stop progress, but I’ll always prefer listening to a shortwave radio station that relies on capricious Mother Nature to get through accompanied by QSB and QRN over a crystal-clear signal on the Internet.

    As far as international broadcasting is concerned, crystal clear, dependable signals devoid of any interference is boring to me but to others Internet radio may be a delight, so enjoy.

    Feel free to shoot me down on this one fellas, hi hi!

  4. Michael Meyer

    I don’t mind internet streaming, we use it at home to listen to Kameme FM from Nairobi, speaking my wife’s native language of kikuyu.

    But if BBC World want to stream only, they need to increase audio quality. Current stream is 48 kbits and sounds very tiresome! Same goes for Vatican Radio morning mass in latin, which sounds much better on shortwave compared to the streaming compressed sound.

    Streaming should be a supplement, not the only option!

    1. Manuel Martin

      I’ll tell you what I think about removing shortwave broadcasters to put them online, the first thing is that not all be of this world have mobile phone or think anyone has a wifi signal chasing it down the street wherever you go , here what is trying to do by intresting people are misinforming or simply disappear any way to be informed in real time and rn anywhere in the world, a greeting.

  5. rcxb

    This audience won’t like to hear it, but the BBC is correct. Lots of people stream internet radio through their phone and car stereo. Bluetooth is a big selling point in new cars. Cellular data isn’t cheap, but it’s not pay-as-you-go, either. All the listening you can do while driving would amount to half a gigabyte or so, per month. You can hardly find data plans that small, so if you aren’t coming close to your cap, that data is essentially free, anyhow.

    Broadcast has failed miserably to keep up. Digital radio can’t seem to get off the ground in any big way. Not helped by incompatible standards the world over, and the catch 22 of adoption. Broadcasters aren’t making very good use of digital radio, either. Where’s the public interest data casting channels?

    Anyhow, radio is only too clearly doomed, even if it has a little life left in it. I worry what will become of our information lifeline in an emergency, but that won’t stop the trend. Undeveloped counties are also a challenge, but a couple orbiting satellites beaming down world radio to cheap satterms could be a more cost effective alternative to short and medium wave radio.

  6. Chris Freitas

    While I see myself listening to internet radio regularly, I don’t think it will truly replace terrestrial radio. At least, not yet.

    I think over time audiences will shift over to the internet, but there’s still a lot people tuning in OTA signals. Traditional radio will survive but I think it will be a less attractive platform for content. Younger folks like choosing when to listen/view programs and on numerous devices. The smartphone is a great gadget for that, and as a 30-something millennial, internet broadcasting makes sense for my needs.

    Like the article states, the audiences on internet radio (while growing) is still very small compared to OTA radio stations. Not to mention, there’s a need for radio during disasters. Even Nextradio is pushing its app to work with every phone carrier and newly released smartphones.

    I don’t see traditional radio going anywhere anytime soon, but we’re seeing a fragmentation of audiences and more platforms to catch content. It’s premature to simply flip the switch and the internet still needs time to grow in a medium.

  7. TP Reitzel

    For reasons that I’ve stated previously, the BBC is wrong. Naturally, the BBC like most broadcasters want to know EVERYTHING about their listeners ….

  8. Mike Barraclough

    The document only refers to the UK and the exact quote is “So for the next ten years, we will need to ride two horses—serving those who have adopted the internet, while at the same time making sure that those who want to carry on watching and listening to traditional channels continue to be properly served, too.We will be moving to an internet-fit BBC, to be ready for an internet-only world whenever it comes. But we should try to move at the pace of our audiences.”

    and continues

    “The internet has not replaced television or radio. Radio 2 has 15m listeners a week.49 84% of TV viewing across all devices is still live.50 The BBC One 10 o’clock News reaches 15m adults a week.51 Zoella starred on The Great British Bake Off, even if her cake did not. Some say that broadcasting will be replaced over the next decade. We disagree. The BBC must remain a broadcaster. In In ten years, channels like BBC One or
    Radio 4 will still be crucial. We expect at least half of all viewing and listening will be live. The long-form, lean-back drama will be as important to our society as it has been since Sophocles. We will continue to invest
    in those services and make sure they are world class. But they will have been complemented by a new set of internet-first services. The BBC will remain a broadcaster but be more than that, too.” and this theme continuesd throughout the BBC Charter Review documents.

    But none of these nuances match a clickbait headline for an article which quotes Rhys Hughes of BBC Radio One, then his surname appears to change into Davies(?) unless another BBC spokesperson suddenly appears and ends by him saying “conventional broadcasting is not doomed” thus contradicting the premise of the article! Nor of course is any link to this BBC document given though it does not take you long to find them, just put “British Bold Creative” in google. The BBC didn’t “of course” use the word “doomed” because they do not agree with it.

    1. Lawrence Harris

      Absolutely right. The BBC, like everything else in England is only interested in cheaper, cheaper cheaper, and never quality. That’s why virtually anything iEngland produces is rubbish and never works.All you see on their programmes are young kids in charge and the oldies do things like Gardeners’ question time or read the news!

      When Mr Putin or whoever takes over the country, they will have real radios for the masses!

      Best wishes from a
      Disillusioned Englishman living in Germany,


  9. rtc

    Once again the bureaucrats running the BBC
    demonstrate how out of touch they are with reality.
    Just last year they indicated that their preferred
    streaming format will be the one used in ipads
    and other Apple devices thus obsoleteing every
    wifi streaming radio in existence.
    They forget that while such decrees work in the
    UK the rest of the planet isn’t the UK.
    Every single scheme they have put forward has
    failed…shut down swbc in favor of local FM,
    some gov’ts stopped that…then beef up internet,
    some gov’ts are blocking that.
    Swbc is clearly the only solution but these “experts”
    probably have never owned a radio,it’s totally a
    theoretical exercise to them.
    And being the BBC,they’re quite used to answering
    to no one anyway.

  10. Bill Mead

    I love that I can listen to ABC 702 Sydney in my car using cellular service and bluetooth but that’s really a treat because of data costs. It’s also not 100% reliable; cell service can be a fickle thing.
    Switching stations with touchscreen technology is not very safe either- you have to actually ‘look’ at what you’re pushing as opposed to just hitting a real knob that’s always sitting in the same place.

    1. Robert Gulley Post author

      That’s a great point, Bill. Traditional car radios are easy to operate without looking, or just requiring a quick glance. Anything I have to read takes too much time away from looking at the road.

  11. Manuel Martin

    I keep listening to it on shortwave and I like more and what if someday internet to collapse this world is heading towards a pit end


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