Online-Only: BBC prepares to shut down radio and TV broadcast over next decade

(Source: The Guardian via Mark Fahey)

BBC preparing to go online-only over next decade, says director general

Tim Davie outlines vision for a world of ‘infinite choice’ where broadcast TV and radio are being switched off

The BBC is preparing to shut down its traditional television and radio broadcasts as it becomes an online-only service over the next decade, according to the director general, Tim Davie.

“Imagine a world that is internet-only, where broadcast TV and radio are being switched off and choice is infinite,” he said. “A switch-off of broadcast will and should happen over time, and we should be active in planning for it.”

Davie said the BBC was committed to live broadcasting but Britons should prepare for the closure of many standalone channels and radio stations by the 2030s: “Over time this will mean fewer linear broadcast services and a more tailored joined-up online offer.”

The future will involve “bringing the BBC together in a single offer”, possibly in the form of one app combining everything from television programmes to local news coverage and educational material. This could ultimately see the end of distinct brands such as BBC One or BBC Radio 4, although the programmes they currently air could continue online. [Continue reading at The Guardian…]

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42 thoughts on “Online-Only: BBC prepares to shut down radio and TV broadcast over next decade

  1. Daniele

    There are two main reasons for all these to happen:
    – traditional radio is expensive for the broadcasters and very cheap for the listeners
    – with the Internet “they” can track your behaviors and make tons of money with datas

    1. mangosman

      There is more;
      The internet, both fixed line and broadband is limited to be be within a country and easily stopped by the autocratic Government.. Cell phone cells are typically around 10 km in diameter.
      The internet is used to notify potential protesters details of future protests
      Distribution of independent information particularly from outside the country can be easily stopped for phones and data.
      It is easy to switch off and filter particularly at the electronic borders.
      Electricity supply blackouts like what is happening in Ukraine stops the internet whether by design or not.. These blackouts are most likely at the point of conflict.

      The advantage of high frequency (SW ) can travel thousands of km so can be transmitted well away from conflict. It is easy to hide battery operated receivers.

      High Frequency Digital Radio Mondiale, can not only travel long distances it is much more resistant to jamming than AM in the same band. This is because the signal is transmitted in bursts, the receiver will synchronise to the strongest signal, and any errors caused by the interference, error correction will make interference inaudible until the interference is too strong.

      It is easier to provide backup power to a single powerful transmitter covering large areas, than the internet which has to have electricity available over large areas.

      The internet particularly mobile internet will overload if all of the radio audience has to use it instead of broadcast, because every listener has to have their own a bidirectional path grom the station to the listener, using costly huge bandwidths.

      The Journaline available in DRM can give detailed text messages indexed to individual simultaneous protests. Maps can be included. The data is stored the the receiver when it is being received. The listener displays it at their request.

      DRM receivers:

  2. John Drake

    Nobody I know under 30 listens to AM or FM radio–it’s all Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and Internet streaming.

    This new technology has made shortwave obsolete, and AM/FM broadcasting is dying on the vine. It’s happening in slow motion over a period of years, but it is happening.

    Remember what people used to say when Netflix and digital cameras became popular? ‘There’s no way everyone will watch movies on the Internet.’ ‘Film photography will always be better than digital photos.’ Well, Blockbuster is dead and Kodak is dead and nobody says that anymore….


      I don’t quite agree with you on the impact of shortwave broadcasts and even less on the impact of radio broadcasts in general! In many countries, the airwaves war is still a reality. Besides, why would some organizations spend so much money to broadcast? Without going back to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty whose role in the fall of communism is important and recognized. Don’t forget the Kurdish Radio Dengê Welat which is jammed by Turkey, Radio Ndarason which broadcasts from Woofferton to the Chad Basin, Polisario Radio, as well as several radios controlled by the CIA such as Radio Marti, Radio Farda and Radio Free Asia, to name but a few. RRI Romania broadcasts in Ukrainian every day. RTI – Taiwan broadcasts in Russian language and receives mail from Ukraine … And so on. After having stopped them, Spain has resumed its shortwave broadcasts to South America!

      It is very difficult to know the audience of an international station … But the market of shortwave receivers is doing well! The Chinese sell thousands of them … Look at the buyers’ reviews on AliExpress : there are many little Russian flags to indicate the country of the buyers ; look at the reviews for this emergency receiver :
      Three Ukrainian buyers out of six!

      Inexpensive and powerful ultra-portable DSP receivers allow to listen discreetly to international radio stations.

      Today the countries that have kept their Shortwave transmitter center can be heard around the world! Russia stopped in 2014 the broadcasts of The Voice of Russia to replace them via the Internet by Sputnik and Russia Today that it was possible to block in a click! This has greatly limited the propaganda of the Kremlin! The debate continues …

      Reading tips :
      1 – Shortwave radio proves simple, powerful – and necessary


      73’s – Thanks to Thomas and to all those who participate in these very interesting exchanges

    2. mangosman

      The pundits said with the advent of television that the film industry would die! It was forced to change to stop using film and to go digital to reduce the cost of production. Has the style of productions changed?
      Cinemas exist to show block busters. Yes the still film is dead but people still take stills on phones or digital cameras. What I am saying is that basic needs remain, but the technology can change.
      The USA went for cable TV which was not a success in other countries. This is because other than North America, Japan, Korea the rest of the world shunned “Never Twice the Same Color” analog TV. They adopted PAL and a few SECAM which always has the hue correct, external antennas are very popular removing ghosted images. Your cable TV had better pictures than free to air terrestrial TV.
      The problem with audio on demand is that most systems monitor your selections so only play you favourite, you don’t variety, this is what radio needs to do as well as current events and unbiassed news.
      Check out Netflix, financials and number of members, it has stopped growing and is declining. How many subscriptions does a viewer wish to pay for now that there is increasing competition.
      As far as radio is concerned AM is around 129 years old and FM stereo at least 60 years. The USA adopted HD Radio which is a disaster, no wonder it is not popular. Very small digital coverage areas compared to analog. Other countries have adopted proper pure digital broadcasting using DAB+ and DRM which gives much more program choice and a big drop in transmission costs.
      Short Wave is what high frequency electromagnetic waves, never changes. The original broadcasts use AM, now Digital Radio Mondiale, makes it sound like an FM station including stereo and with sufficient power can travel many thousands of kilometres. It is very useful for citizens which are being oppressed by authoritarian Governments.
      Once the listener buys a digital receiver the rest is virtually free. Sirius XM pay radio was also supposed to be the replacement for analog radio. Only 10 % of the population of USA & Canada have subscriptions, hardly a success.
      Lastly I should remind the North American population that in the event of a disaster, the internet and cell phone systems usually fail due to electricity blackouts and can be out for days. Radio keeps going because of its large coverage area meaning it is feasible for the transmitter and program source to have backup electricity. It does mean however all citizens need a radio!

  3. mangosman

    Translation for a non UK audience.
    Whilst listening to the radio is free, if you don’t stream it (telcos charge for delivery), TV and BBC IView you must have a $US194.92 per year licence. This funds the BBC, because it does not have advertising. It is frozen for 2 years and the Government is only guaranteeing its existence to 2027

    If they want to save money, they should convert all DAB transmissions to DAB+ which is inexpensive to the broadcaster. They don’t know how many old DAB only receivers there are. Then switch off all AM and FM transmitters. Remember that a DAB+ transmitter can carry 18 programs. For the Overseas service they should expand their DRM broadcasts to all high frequency transmitters because this drops the large electricity consumption by more than 60 %. India is transmitting dual programs on single, high power high frequency (Short Wave) DRM transmitter. Conversion to DAB+ and DRM requires additions and minor modifications to transmitters which will save lots. Over 50 % of UK listeners use DAB+ already. There are DRM radios available, and the price will drop if the BBC transmits DRM programs. The sound is like FM on high frequency.

  4. Barbara Harris

    Our city suffered a bombing at the regional phone company’s station. Not only did this disrupt phone communications, but it turned out that much internet traffic was routed through that facility. So not only were I and other residents unable to use the phone, but we had no internet. If not for over the air tv and radio, we’d have been totally cut off.

  5. Eric Richards

    I do find this disappointing. I take it that there’s not really a free-over-the-air TV like here, (well, discounting TV tax) and do the BBC really think car radios are going to be replaced with streaming narrowcasting?

    I see notes about shortwave and wide-area coverage in disasters and I get it, but most Americans who are not in the radio hobby in some form will not.

  6. Mike S.

    The BBC *itself* recently started broadcasting to Ukraine because of conditions that specifically necessitated radio communication.

    Why would they be so mean to Ukraine and make them listen to poor over the air transmissions when they could be offering them an infinity of online choices? How mean!

  7. B Glett

    The powers that be would like to eliminate AM as well as shortwave, since both act as conduits for right-wing political communications, particularly in drive time. You may have noticed that automakers are phasing out AM car radios.

    1. mangosman

      That is not the case in Australia where because of our large areas of low population density AM is still carrying all broadcasts Government funded and commercial broadcasters have a pair of licences often 1 AM and 1 FM. Their AM coverage is the original and largest area, carries the main program and the FM one is usually for the youth music audience, and is often networked.
      The sound quality of FM is what causes the split between talk radio (yes we have shock jocks as well) and music radio. We also have community broadcasting nearly all on FM.

  8. Colin Miller

    What about listeners without any Internet service, particularly during a disaster? How will they get any news about what is happening?

  9. mangosman

    At the peak listening time how will the internet particularly the mobile internet will cope with 68 million simultaneous listeners for around 2 hours a day particularly weekdays and then worse at night for peak viewing of TV with 68 million viewers wanting up up to 25 Mbit/s each to watch TV in UHD simultaneously for a few hours. The telcos could not cope without a massive investment when there is already multiple nationwide networks of transmitters carrying multiple programs.
    Remember that now more than 50 % of listeners have DAB. It is about time they switched that off modified the those encoders to DAB+ compression and error correction to give 18 stereo programs per transmitter. Provide those transmitters with backup power

  10. Peter L

    If you are one of the King’s subjects today and are 10, do you even know about radio?

    Your parents are probably in their 40s and is it even likely that they had the “radio habit”? If they didn’t and a lot of people in that cohort don’t ’cause if you are 40, the 1st iPod came out when you were, like, 19, so radio? Do they even remember?

    So while *we* (I am part-way through my 60th orbit) can’t fathom a world without BBC on the radio, today’s 10-year-olds, who will be teens when the last transmitter is shut off, won’t know what the fuss is about.

    What’s sad is that the BBC’s *programming* will be cut because the Powers That Be are unable to separate *programming* from *distribution technology*.

    On the west side of the Atlantic, AM radio isn’t dying because of RFI (which is a legit issue) or because carmakers are dropping AM radios from dashboards it’s because radio companies are no longer providing anything young people want to listen to. If the broadcasters keep catering to people my age and older, as they seem to be doing, the last AM transmitter will go off around the time of the last BBC transmitter and the FM transmitters won’t be far behind.

  11. Jason VE3MAL

    While SW is likely first on the chopping block, this article is about all broadcasting, and is naming domestic FM and TV. Really unfortunate. Less accessible, less efficient, less robust, -but- great for advertisers who want data on listeners. I understand why all the private stations prefer you listen to their streams, but public broadcasters are just playing copycat at their own long-term peril.

    It’s no different when they all moved their online communication to social media networks -externalizing costs, but putting all the control of their communication channel in the hands of (usually foreign) companies. Your public broadcaster now has to compete on a black-box algorithm for viewers with videos of some lady screaming at someone over shopping carts. Not a recipe for good, often dry, education and news publication. In “the next decade” the BBC will just be a handful of poorly subscribed streams among thousands on TuneIn. A decade later, it will be gone.

  12. Don

    Is Shortwave declining because no one is listening or is no one listening because Shortwave broadcasting is in decline? The debate continues……

    1. Alexander, DL4NO

      For the broad public, the sound quality of shortwave transmissions is not acceptable. Most programs are not so interesting. Are you really interested in internal politics of such a foreign country?

      We still have shortwave transmitters. From time to time, they are very important. See when the western alliance pulled out of Afghanistan. And in some circumstances, shortwave broadcasting is the only medium to provide people in a specific area with up-to-date information.

      Therefore explain the people around you that shortwave still exists and that SW receivers can be very inexpensive.

      I know of the limitations of these receivers. Most obvious is tuning: You have an analog scale and a tuning knob that turns a potentiometer. The swiper voltage of the potentiometer is digitized and used to tune a digital VFO that tunes in 5 kHz steps. It is very common, that you cannot tune to the correct frequency and always jump a 5 kHz step too far. In the beginning I searched for an interruption somewhere, but it is those 5 kHz steps. Even 2.5 kHz steps would help!

      But many of these radios have memories. When you know which frequencies to use, the problem can be minimized.

  13. Alexander, DL4NO

    In emergencies, shortwave transmissions have the potential to cover whole disaster areas. But who has a SW receiver and can operate it?

    These days there are SW radios in the $20 range. OK, I would never use them in normal times, but for emergencies…

    In my emergency preparedness documentation you find a chapter for these radios, including a short introduction to SW listening like changing the frequency band several times a day or point to the 49m band.


      If you search the Internet for the best emergency radio receivers, you will be shown several recent article references. For example:
      The best emergency radios in 2022

      The Best Emergency Radios for Staying Prepared and Safe

      Sign of the times! The market for emergency radio receivers is doing very well! Paradoxical, isn’t it?

      Please, take a look at this article:
      The Evolution of the Emergency Radio – From AM-only portables to multi-function machines

      In France, the last longwave transmitter (RTL broadcasts from Luxembourg) will be cut on December 31, 2022! No more transmitter will cover the whole hexagon! Oh sorry, I forgot that the longwave transmitter used by France-Inter (162 kHz) is still operational to broadcast a time signal to some 200 000 clocks (Als162:

    2. Jock Elliott

      “In my emergency preparedness documentation you find a chapter” . . . Where? Is this available on line?

      Cheers, Jock

      1. Alexander, DL4NO

        I primarily write in German. But Google Translate should help you:

        This is a chapter about information gathering during an emergency. I decided to describe the basic principles and not specific radios etc. My Web site is too large that I could update every page once a year.

        Over here in Europe we have no NOAA. Most radios over here provide FM and DAB+ only. For shortwave I wanted to lower the entry level as far as possible. $ 20 you might invest for something that might happen in the future. $ 80 would be another story.

  14. Droumaguet

    simply appaling. It has been discovered in France that with the risk of power cuts the FM and DAB+ relays will also go off the air at once and cell phone relays will be maintained by batteries (on ly in dense population areas) for “as much as 30 minutes” but the power cuts will be for 2 hours. With no more AM stations on the air (except Bretagne 5 on 1593 khz and 5kw) some french population will be with no contact at all with portable radios quiet…. of course they will pick up loud and clear radio china international on SW…

  15. Damian McSorley

    I never heard of anything as short sighted as this…

    Many in the world do not have internet nor will they for a few decades yet, i’ll leave the last word to Mikhail Gorbachev

    “The BBC sounded the best” was how the former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev described his radio listening during the August 1991 coup in which opponents of his reforms took him prisoner.

    Mr Gorbachev was held for three days in a country house in the Crimea, and his only contact with the outside world was listening to foreign radio broadcasts on an old radio he found.

    Speaking after the coup ended, Mr Gorbachev’s praise seemed like a triumph of BBC journalism over the rest of the world.”

  16. Mark

    I think People are getting tired of traditional broadcasters and some of the nonsense they spew out and their agendas. They’re not as important as they were. Quite a lot of People now have phones and that’s the centre of their lives, attached to them 24×7, very few listen to mainstream broadcasters and I don’t think going all digital will change the fact that they’re not as important as they once were.

  17. 13dka

    A little tangent: After the 2021 Ahr valley flood catastrophe was so devastating and deadly due to a complete failure of the warning systems, we learned that not only the reporting chains failed, many counties don’t even have sirens anymore and just of all the digitally underdeveloped Germany relies on digital alarm systems . In the aftermath of the disaster, Germany conducted 2 alarm system tests, the first one was considered a total failure but while I didn’t hear the sirens (we still have a few in my neck of the woods) at least I got the test text message on my smartphone Yesterday was the second test, I couldn’t hear the sirens and I didn’t get a text message, the public radio station I tuned in did not participate in the test… but the news proclaimed this a success despite the authorities admitting that half of the phones could not be reached and knowing that in some places radio and cellphones were the only means of warning the public. Yet, if a real disaster would’ve happened here yesterday I’d be dead or clinging on the roof, waiting for rescue.

    While cellphones are radio too, the cells are so small that any event that could sever the communication lines to them will cost lives where the phones can’t be reached anymore and all fallback/legacy systems were demolished. A siren just needs one functional ear, a single medium wave transmitter can inform a whole state or even a small country about the nature of the emergency, an FM transmitter at least a county or a city. We don’t even have a common and easily recognizable format for emergency messages on radio and TV, one that makes you really listen.

    Abandoning transmitters is putting lives and almost literally the air that we need to breathe in control of the corporate world and needlessly complex technology with hundreds of really stupid failure modes like “wrong Android version” “wrong/outdated operating system” and “wrong manufacturer”. Hearing of such plans from the country and a nation that was literally saved in its entirety *by radio* 80 years ago, just of all in times when all the old demons are raising their heads again is truly boggling the mind.

    1. mangosman

      I am surprised you haven’t mentioned
      “TODAY: DAB+ digital radio in German nationwide warning day
      08.12.2022, Germany
      A nationwide warning day will take place in Germany today, which aims to alert the population to warnings in crisis situations. On the federal government’s joint action day with the federal states and municipalities, the warning methods of the “Modular Warning System” (MoWaS) are to be used at 11am. DAB+ has been a successful part of the MoWaS since 2020, which also includes public and private radio stations, along with SMS and apps.”


    Such a decision will facilitate the work of dictators! Internet listening can be stopped with a click; moreover it is traceable… On the other hand the listening of the Radio (wireless!) is not traceable…

    Nevertheless, we must recognize that the young generations use their smartphones to listen to the Radio when they listen to it!

    1. John Drake

      Shortwave signals have been jammed effectively for many years by the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Cuba and others:

      On the other hand, the NY Times and BBC Russian are available on the Telegram app. Telegram is not being blocked or censored and can be accessed by anyone in Ukraine or Russia with a smartphone:

    1. Rob W4ZNG

      If Chinese/CCP intelligence agents had penetrated and were thoroughly in control of the BBC leadership, the net result would be indistinguishable from this planned course of action. Why jam when silencing is so much more effective?

  19. mangosman
    The DAB+ and DRM are the most efficient way to transmit programs to large audiences.
    The BBC hasn’t had the problems of large scale fires, cyclones and floods. The internet both mobile and fixe line fails generally due to multiple electricity blackouts. Mobile phones also are overloaded in the area of the emergency due to people using mobile broadband and calls looking for current situation.
    Look out for government control of the internet as has happens in war zones and authoritarian Governments.

    1. Jock Elliott


      This is another “stupid buttocks” move by the BBC.

      (Think synonyms, friend)

      Murphy, remember, was an optimist.

      Cheers, Jock

  20. Frank K4FMH

    While the virtual steamroller of everyone guessing the future becomes the future is being played out…first in Australia and now in Britain…the ability of oppressive regimes blocking the “good voice” of the Beeb is being ignored. Witness Iran and China. This reminds me of the BeeGees’ song, I started a joke…


    1. Roger Fitzharris

      Speaking of lyrics Frank, how about this:
      “So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
      Drove my Chevy to the levee
      But the AM band was dry
      Them good old boys were scanning and listening
      Singing, “This’ll be the day that I die”
      This will be the day that I die”


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