Feb 122015

The BBC’s Jim Simmons has this evening issued an apology over the way changes to BBC internet radio streams were announced following the broadcaster’s transfer of streams to its new Audio Factory infrastructure.

It has left some internet radio owners without access to the BBC’s stations and will result in some UK listeners losing access to BBC Radio 5 Live during sports coverage.

While the changes relating to the withdrawal of support to Windows Media streams, which were used by a small minority of listeners, were widely publicised, the withdrawal of SHOUTcast AAC streams caught many by surprise.

SHOUTcast – a platform that previous owner AOL were planning to close in 2013, but was subsequently taken over by Radionomy – is used by a variety of devices, and as part of the changes only MP3 SHOUTcast streams were retained, but some, especially BBC Radio 3 listeners have complained about the inferior quality of the MP3 streams. Additionally, only international streams are available, meaning that sports coverage to which the BBC only has UK rights to is blanked out even in the UK, affecting the availability of BBC Radio 5 Live.

Responding to the over 300 comments his BBC blog on the changes generated, the Senior Product Manager in BBC Radio and Music said:

“Firstly I would like to sincerely apologise again for all the inconvenience that this change has caused you. We did have to move to new infrastructure and we did have to make choices about formats and delivery methods. When I communicated last year about windows media, I was so focused on being clear about that, that I failed badly in communicating the changes to shoutcast. I do apologise. I’m afraid this change is not really comparable to other BBC changes mentioned [in comments on his blog]. They often have large publicity budgets, little CGI robots etc. I’m afraid you’ve just got me, a blog and my monotone voice recorded in my loft so that I don’t incur studio costs.”

Jim Simmons denied that there was a lack of consultation with manufacturers prior to the changeover, confirming that they had spoken to manufacturers and that the decision to disable AAC SHOUTcast streams was based feedback from manufacturers. He said:

“We have a contact at Reciva, and we have a call booked with Logitech tomorrow morning. We tested 5 Live with Roberts yesterday evening and the stream was working. We believe we have more to do at our end to improve quality of service. We will keep working on it.”

“It honestly does upset me that we have caused this disruption. We try every day to do our best for what is a massively disparate set of users from iPhones to Squeezeboxes – all with very different expectations and desires. We are not in a position to go back but we will sincerely try and do our best for as many of you as possible as we go forwards.”