BBC Radio 4 campaign to transition from long wave

Droitwich transmitting station (Public Domain via Bob Nienhuis)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris Greenway, who shares the following article from the BBC:

BBC Radio 4 begins information campaign to transition listeners from Long Wave (BBC Media Centre)

BBC Radio 4 begins information campaign to transition listeners from Long Wave 

The BBC has begun an information campaign to help transition listeners of Radio 4 Long Wave (LW) to alternative BBC platforms.

This follows the announcement in May 2022 that the BBC is to stop scheduling separate content for Radio 4 LW in anticipation of the closure of the LW platform, owned and operated by a third party, which is coming to the end of its life as a technology.

Radio 4 LW is starting to run targeted on air trails from today, giving listeners plenty of advance notice of the coming changes.

All programmes on Radio 4 LW –  Shipping Forecast, Daily Service, Yesterday in Parliament and Test Match Special – will continue to be available on other BBC platforms.

Digital listening has grown significantly over the past decade as the range of alternatives has become easier to switch to, and listeners are increasingly accessing content elsewhere on the BBC. The audiences for Radio 4 LW are small, but we know there are some who still tune in on LW for their favourite programmes.

The BBC is working with key organisations so that specific audiences will be notified how they can switch to other BBC platforms to hear programmes between now and the end of Radio 4 LW separate scheduling in March 2024.

The Shipping Forecast will cease to be broadcast four times a day, and will instead be available via the Radio 4 FM simulcast twice a day (weekdays) and three times a day (weekends) as well as on DAB and BBC Sounds.

It will also continue to be broadcast via HM Coastguard’s channels. Whilst modern technology and new methods means the Shipping Forecast is no longer integral to mariners, the BBC has been working closely with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Met Office to ensure seafarers have adequate advance notice of the changes taking place next year and can prepare accordingly.

The Daily Service and the longer version of Yesterday in Parliament will also continue on LW until March 2024 and will then be available on BBC Radio 4 Extra and BBC Sounds.

Yesterday in Parliament will still be broadcast on the Today programme on Radio 4 FM/DAB.

Test Match Special is already available uninterrupted on Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds where listeners will continue to be able to access it digitally. All scheduled cricket matches on Radio 4 LW will still be broadcast this summer, for the final time. Radio 4 LW listeners will be reminded where they can hear the cricket across the BBC going forward.

Helpful links:

BBC Weather: Coast and Sea

Maritime safety: weather and navigation


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18 thoughts on “BBC Radio 4 campaign to transition from long wave

  1. Bernd P
    tells at least that the teleswitch service will also cease on April 1st 2024. This makes the BBC 198 transmitter itself obsolet, except for if a standard timecode transmission would be still required for general “atomic clock” use – by whichever type ofradio-controlled clock, maybe in offices, national authorities, train stations e.g. and even if there would be a significant number of dependent clocks and wristwatches around in the UK. Maybe even data-centres and IT-networks anywhere which are still using the BBC time signal as a time-standard (should be investigated if that is the case or if not). But otherwise, the transmitter itself could be finally and physically going off the air I suppose.

    1. Fredrik Grefberg

      The Redmoss (Aberdeen) transmitter relays the Radio 4 Long Wave service at 2kw on 1449kHz to cover the mush zone in the overlap of the Westerglen and Burghead 198kHz service.
      Will this service cease by 1 April?

      Fred / saøbli

  2. Philip W

    I’ve come across this thread later in the day. I always purchased a radio for my car with the LW band as it allowed me to keep listening in remote areas of the UK when other stations were unavailable. Whenever we drive past Droitwich I’m thankful for the long-distance LW signal. From memory, in the past, there were many more masts, set in a circular pattern than thoseremaining today, although I don’t know what these were dedicated too. Anyone remember?

    Were unavailable.

  3. Fredrik Grefberg

    It’s Friday evening in Stockholm, Sweden, and I’m tuning in to BBC Radio-4 on LW 198.

    The LW 198 kHz reception in my part of Sweden is mostly excellent during nighttime after the greyline has rolled over both Sweden and UK usually round 8 pm GMT.

    I’m a lover of intelligent radio. Not the crap imposed on radio listeners by the digitalisation lobby.
    If BBC realize its announced 2024 shutdown of Droitwich and Westerglen, it cannot anylonger depict it self as a true Public Service broadcasting company.

    73 from Fred / sa0bli

  4. Ray Lalleu

    Accuse your dog of rabies, you will be entitled to kill him !

    Of course, a fully solid-state transmitter could save much energy (and maintenance costs) in place of the ageing units in Droitwich. And many 400 kW units are available on the used market.

    What about the two 50 kW synchronized relays on 198 kHz in Scotland ? Are they of old technology too ?

  5. LongwaveListener

    Since 29/05/2023 I have been listening with dismay to the addition at the end of the BBC Radio 4 LW Shipping Forecast, “The Shipping Forecast will no longer be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 LW, after March 2024.” Today (03/06/2023) the announcer added that LW broadcasts will cease altogether, at the same date.

    I read in Practical Boat Owner that “the LW platform – which is operated by Arqiva – is expected to close in 2024 as the technology is reaching the end of its life and certain parts are no longer manufactured.”

    This has been known for some time, I first remember hearing concerns about the ageing LW transmitters in the late 1990s. However, it is entirely possible to replace a valve based transmitter with a solid-state, transistor transmitter. Indeed, this is exactly what the Danish national broadcaster (DR) did.

    I hope that recent experience has taught us that having fall-back systems is essential. The COVID-19 pandemic, war in Europe and turbulent UK politics have served as salient reminders. I am sure that the BBC will assure us: that that DAB and FM infrastructure is robust.

    Nonetheless, the long history and proven robustness of the Droitwich transmitting station should convince us that this station is a valuable insurance policy, yet it is so much more (together with LW transmitters in Scotland).

    LW provides reach, well beyond that of DAB and FM. Since the BBC World Service ceased Sort Wave broadcasts in Europe, LW fills a small but significant niche.

    I would be interested to know if anyone has any idea how much money the BBC expects to save, by shutting down Radio 4 LW, and conversely, how much they might need to invest in a transistor based replacement transmitter. Thanks to @qwertyamdx for the comparative costs from RTE.

    This decision by the BBC needs to face a concerted campaign. maybe Dave Rowntree and those who have replied to this post can help us launch this? We need to act quickly.

    1. mangosman

      BBC World Service Digital Radio Mondiale transmission
      0600-0700 BBC World Service 3955 + 5875 Daily English NW Europe Woofferton, UK 100 114 + 78
      I do not know what is being transmitted in these broadcasts. Perhaps the shipping forecast should be moved onto these broadcasts? They could add the weather maps in colour and maps of ice. As shown in this USA Coast Guard report
      Starwaves makes a DRM receiver which contains a WiFi transmitter so the images can be viewed on a tablet.

  6. Arthur Ascii

    I still have a back up signal generator locked to 198Khz as a freq standard.

    I still prefer using 198Khz every day on a simple rx.

    THe DAB RX barely gives me 4 hours on batteries.

    My Tecsun lasts 2 weeks.

    I’m NOT interested in paying for data on my smartphone or stupid BBC Sounds Apps.

    I’m not interested in the crap that apps give me when changing OS’s and unsupported systems.

    My basic AM radio is more than adequate, it just works, even if fidelity lacks a bit.

    The BBC often use the phrase “it’s your BBC” but it is NOT.

    If it was then it would listen to it’s users rather than just DICTATE who we should listen to it.

    Stuff the BBC.


  7. Kris Partridge

    The “Shipping Forecast” is on LF 198 kHz which has good coverage of the sea areas around the British Isles. That area of coverage will not be covered by VHF Band II FM or VHF Band III DAB. transmissions.
    What are we a martime nation going to replace it by ? I know this question has been not as yet been addressed. Watch this space.

  8. 13dka

    If there’s a radio station/service in geographical Europe that should be declared UNESCO world heritage then it’s the BBC longwave service on the Droitwich transmitter. An American station with an historic relevance to warrant that status would be WWV. Both are living technical monuments that changed world history, they still serve a purpose and they should continue to do so for future generations.

    To a radiohead, this sweeping urge to abandon and destroy everything considered “obsolete” by some bean counters is hard to watch. I don’t claim my words are reasonable though, they just reflect how I feel. Besides all historical relevance and context many stations may have had, they are pieces of my own history forcefully removed from my world, a bit like old friends sentenced to death because they are not considered profitable anymore. That sucks. Not to mention how unreasonable it would seem to dismantle a fallback system that served the UK, all of Europe and the entire world in a difficult crisis, just of all in times when a number of potentially even worse threats rear their ugly heads on the horizon.

    1. mangosman

      Droitwich is a 500 kW AM transmitter located near the centre of the UK nowhere near the sea,+UK/@52.2974462,-2.1051932,178m/data=!3m1!1e3?entry=ttu
      This transmitter is not just the emitter of sound but a rubidium frequency standard at 198 kHz and also transmits accurate time, This signal also carries radio data encoded using phase modulation, giving a time-of-day signal, and radio teleswitch control signals for Economy 7 electric-heating systems. is off air reception.
      For those worrying about the 2 valves (tubes) of the 10 in the world, perhaps the alterative is a 2 MW medium frequency transmitter which was build in Canada. Another alternative is to go to the high frequency band instead of 198 kHz where solid state transmitters are available.

      It is not about preserving the past but keeping up with the present. Ie Converting transmissions to digital at similar frequencies to what is being used now, to keep the coverage area the same. Increasing its usefulness by transmitting weather maps and text warnings which are live and reducing the significant electricity cost by 60 %.

      1. qwertyamdx

        It’s not true that there is a shortage of transmitting tubes. It was a rumor that originated somewhere in the 2010s, but it has been dismissed since then. That being said, solid-state transmitters for longwave band have been available since at least two decades and I think the absolute majority of stations that are on the air now use such transmitters. So the low frequency itself is not an issue at all. DRM is not really a viable option since it failed to gain any significance in Europe during the last 2 decaces, particularly due to lack of affordable and available receivers. The BBC decided not to go with it after trials – only two hours of daily World Service transmissions in DRM on shortwave have remained until today.

        But in fact, switching to digital is not necessary in achieve savings – modern solid-state transmitters are indeed much more efficient and they employ advanced power saving techniques (i.e. DCC) which make the operating costs neglectable. The latest example is Ireland, which decided to shut down LW even though its yearly operating costs were equal to a single executive’s annual salary, or 0,2% of the funds they received from license fee, again only in a single year. The numbers were undisputable – this license fee money alone was sufficient to pay for 500 years of continuous transmission.

        So the issue is financial, but not in a sense in which the executives would like to present it to the general public. It’s not about AM being expensive to operate, because it clearly isn’t. It is, though, an ideal scapegoat, that can be painted as expensive, not green, outdated and so on, and the money “saved” can be redirected to some “more necessary” expenses – it’s not much, but it can surely found some sweet benefits – i.e. for the executives that make such great savings?

        The above is not merely my unfounded allegation. Two years ago, the BBC has paid 7 millions of pounds for new logos, which were essentially the same as old ones, the only difference being the font used. They claimed the redesign was necessary because the old ones were “old-fashioned” and “out of date”. We see a similar principle being applied in the press release – LW is outdated, audience is small, etc. Basic transparency and accountability principles would require – especially from a public broadcaster – to reveal the data – how small it exactly is, how much they pay for LW etc. but all we get is this “we know better” corpospeak.

        1. mangosman

          Dynamic Carrier control reduces the carrier power by 50 % only when transmitting silence or low volume audio.
          All AM broadcasters use aggressive audio processing to produce the maximum volume transmissions for as long as possible. This is done by audio compression in 1/3 octave bands.
          Thus the amount of savings is minimal.
          By comparison DAB+ and DRM contain no carrier because they use COFDM modulation.

  9. mangosman

    ITU zone 1 which is Europe, Africa and Russia are the only areas where Low Frequency broadcasting is authorised. This is why it isn’t in all AM radios.

    If the aim was to reduce running costs, then they should have changed to Digital Radio Mondiale. Their electricity consumption would drop by more than 60 %. The shipping forecast could be a map instead of a voice announcement and the sound dramatically improves. Some DRM receivers contain a Wifi transmitter so the maps can be viewed on a tablet. The receivers can tune the LF band as part of the specification.

    I don’t know how far out to sea the current forecasts are supposed to cover but DAB+ and FM cannot cover anywhere near the same area.

  10. Anas Patel

    Its sad to see the demise of LW I’ve always listened to 198 longwave when on holiday in the EU R4 has a good daytime coverage footprint in most of western Germany, Holand, Belgium and northern/central France. The furthest I’ve had 198 LW was from a hotel in Madina, Saudi Arabia around 23:00 UTC using an old Sony cassette player which took 6 D sized batteries but had a sensitve LW receiver in 2007 but it felt reassuring to here voices from the UK fading in and out. The sad fact is now the future is heading towards 4/5G mobile data and WIFI for radio programming but its so true people under the age of 30 have no patients for twisting a radio around trying to find the sweet spot for pulling in that really weak station.

  11. Arthur Ascii

    Pathetic and disgraceful.

    The LW service is great, easy to receive, no floppy telescopic antenna to snap on the rx.

    There’s a total disconnect between the digital fantasists and normal radio users !

    1. BeeTee

      Normal radio users don’t use LW-capable radios (at least, and at a very generous estimate, a growing percentage don’t). They use FM or DAB or smart speakers or mobile devices. LW is lovely but a rarity now. Ask anyone under about 40 what LW is and most won’t have a clue. A fair few under 20 know what a radio is at all. I know as I am a radio enthusiast (and I grew up with the good era of LW Atlantic 252). Most won’t know and don’t care. And let’s face it, no programming, including the essential Shipping Forecast is being lost. The biggest headache will be the changing of the radio tele-switch electricity meters. I don’t want to see the BBC leave LW, but it’s the right thing to do at this time.

      1. BeeTee

        Addendum to my own post: It is not an announcement of the end of Radio 4 Longwave, but an announcement of the end of separate programming. Of course, the service itself may then close shortly after that.


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