Monday 12 March 2012

Do clicks and pops on internet Radio reveal BBC attitude to local radio?

Imagine being given a camera that persistently gives you blotches on your pictures, how long would you put up with this? Listeners to local BBC radio stations on the internet, such as BBC Radio Cambridgeshire have been putting up with the equivalent for over three months now. Is this due to an insurmountable problem or complacency on the BBC’s behalf? As I small business, I could not afford to let such a fault run for such a period of time – I suggest this is big organisation complacency and it does not bode well for the future of local BBC radio stations.

Irritating clicks and pops have been disrupting local BBC radio station broadcasts, occurring at a frequency of several times a minute. This phenomenon disappears when the night time broadcasts go over to a shared national broadcast.

When I first heard them back in December 2011 on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, I put this down to having a new PC and that there was an error there. That is, until I tried accessing listen again and finding that the clicks and pops were also present on the recordings of daytime BBC Radio Cambridgeshire programs. Using different PCs at different locations, the error was still there.

In fact, doing a further search revealed that this was occurring with local radio broadcasts across England, with irritated local listeners initially thinking this is just their local phenomenon
Today I checked BBC Radio Newcastle, BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, BBC Radio Devon, BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester and BBC Radio Jersey – All were bedevilled by the horrendous clicks and pops.

Finally I heard on a BBC Radio 4 Feedback broadcast in February (no clicks and pops on that) that this was due to a faulty unit through which all local stations were routed. It was a bespoke item and a replacement had to be made. The fault would be resolved early March. Well, it is coming up to mid-March and the latest round about news is that the fault is unlikely to be repaired till April at the earliest (01/03/2012

If a small business like mine was providing a service with the same persistency, irritation and length of a fault to its customers, it would very rapidly find itself losing business. It would be a matter of finding a more immediate solution, even if this meant a stop-gap until a major repair was effected.

Now I’ve established, with a couple of phone calls, that there are internet radio streaming providers in the UK and that they are perfectly capable of taking an FM stream and converting it into an internet radio broadcast. A good place to start would be UK & Irish Radio Stations broadcasting on the Internet at Whilst the companies contacted did not want to be quoted, they all felt that it would be straightforward to provide a quick solution if approached.

I find the fact that the BBC has not seen fit to quickly address a serious and persistent technical issue with local radio broadcasts on the internet surprising. Even if the proportion of local BBC Radio listeners on the internet is small, the impact on the perceived professionalism of the organisation could be disproportionate.

Most worrying of all, as a local BBC Radio Cambridgeshire listener, is the feeling that if the BBC as an organisation does not treat its local internet radio listeners seriously, is it really serious about local radio as a whole?

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