Changes to the way the BBC streams its internet radio stations have left some listeners unable to tune in on their devices.

UPDATE 10.11.15

Sonos has today finally released its long-awaited fix to enable Sonos owners to access the new HLS AAC internet radio streams from the BBC via Tunein. This should improve sound quality when listening to BBC broadcasts (which had previously reverted to low-res MP3) and overcome the issue of listeners missing out on some sports coverage as the BBC didn't have the international broadcasting rights for all sporting events on the MP3 radio streams.

BBC radio on Sonos will now be available in up to 320kbps sound quality. The update comes as part of the Trueplay update which enables auto tuning of Sonos speakers via the iOS app.

PUBLISHED 21.07.15

Sonos has apologised that its latest 5.4 update does not fix the problem owners have encountered with BBC radio streams (see earlier coverage below). In an email to owners it says:

More after the break

"Beginning earlier this year you may have experienced decreased quality and gaps in live programming while listening to your favourite BBC radio streams. We apologise that this update [5.4] does not correct these issues.

"Please note that we are working hard on a solution in partnership with TuneIn and the BBC to be released later this year."

However, there's good news for Naim owners. The company has released a firmware update for its network players that enables playback of higher quality BBC HLS radio streams. Naim was quite vocal in its criticism when the BBC made some unexpected changes to its AAC radio streams, switching to HLS without informing hardware manufacturers of the switch, as you can read below.

MORE: Naim releases BBC Radio HLS update

PUBLISHED 25.02.15

The BBC has responded to criticism of the way it handled changes to its internet radio streams in a series of blogs on the Corporation's website. One result of the outcry is that Radio 3 HD at 320kbps has been re-enabled on SHOUTcast.

Jim Simmons, senior product manager at the BBC, says: "It is clear from your feedback that the fallback choice for SHOUTcast [MP3] has fallen short in a number of areas. We have been working over the past week on some of the technical solutions required to improve the situation and I am happy to say that we have now re-enabled Radio 3 HD Sound on SHOUTcast.

"We are still talking to manufacturers and many are confident that they will be able to provide their users with access to all 57 of our HLS AAC streams at 320kbps within a few weeks or months. We will review the status of this 320kbps SHOUTcast stream again in a few months time and we will update you on progress via the internet blog."

In a separate blog, the BBC's Head of Media Services, Henry Webster, addresses the problem of Radio 5 listeners being unable to hear some sports broadcasts. "Users whose devices can only receive the SHOUTcast stream [in MP3] and not one of the new HLS streaming formats will hear a version of the stream which will blank sport where the BBC does not hold international rights. The new HLS streams are available in both UK and international variants, which allows those in the UK to continue to enjoy the Sport that we broadcast as usual. We are investigating to see whether there is anything we can do to return access to the UK streams for those who are affected by this."

Sonos owners, among others, have been affected by this as Sonos uses TuneIn for its internet radio streaming service and this does not currently support the new BBC streams. Sonos says it is "working to add support for the new HLS streams. We don’t have a timeline or ETA to share right now, as we are still in the process of investigating the details of the implementation, but as soon as we have more news we’ll share it on our website."

Webster also admits that many Logitech Squeezebox owners have expressed their frustration at the impact of the changes, but says the BBC is working with Logitech to resolve the problem. 

Naim equipment has also been affected by the "shock changes" and the company has issued a detailed statement on the issue which you can read at the end of this story.

PUBLISHED 21.02.15

We've had a number of complaints from readers who've lost their favourite radio stations online due to recent changes to the way the BBC streams internet radio.

Sonos owners (among others) are no longer able to receive some broadcasts on BBC 5 Live via TuneIn as the BBC doesn't have international MP3 broadcasting rights for all sporting events, and when we tried to listen to certain BBC stations on our Pioneer N-30 streamer (which uses vTuner) we received a recorded message saying the BBC was no longer supporting the Windows Media Audio format. 

Re-tuning our favourite BBC stations on the Pioneer to the new MP3 stream (as opposed to the old WMA one) solved the problem.

Listeners to the SHOUTcast stream are no longer able to hear some BBC Sport content either because the Beeb is retiring SHOUTcast streams that use the AAC codec. Radio 3 HD was also affected initially, with some listeners having no choice but to switch to a lower-quality MP3 stream. However, the BBC has now re-instated the Radio 3 HD stream at 320kbps, at least for the time being.

Naim has been affected too and says it was "extremely surprised to find the [BBC's] AAC streams changed at the last minute to being encapsulated in an HLS stream. The test transmissions were not. This change appears to be a shock to all of our industry friends as well".

The changes have come about as part of the BBC's Audio Factory project, which aims to streamline the number of formats it uses for streaming internet radio. The BBC says it had become too expensive to continue supporting Windows Media Audio, which the corporation says is used on about five per cent of internet streaming devices.

Regarding SHOUTcast, Jim Simmons, the BBC's senior product manager for Audio Services, explains: "We are retiring SHOUTcast streams that use the AAC codec. To reproduce these SHOUTcast streams in Audio Factory in multiple codecs and bit rates would have been costly. For these reasons, we are concentrating our efforts around HLS, HDS and DASH. 

"We have retained a single SHOUTcast stream of each service using the MP3 codec to support devices that cannot support these protocols."

On its own website, the BBC says it is "working with the manufacturers of those devices currently affected to minimise disruption". Its aim is to move towards using one open-source standard, known as MPEG Dash, across the entire network.

In his BBC blog, Henry Webster, Head of Media Services says: "Over a year ago, we approached as many of the manufacturers, aggregators and other related groups as we were aware of to inform them about the changes. Some of these manufacturers have responded by making changes, some were unable to (due to limitations in their hardware) and others have decided to do nothing. We continue to work with these groups and are keen to engage directly with manufacturers or software providers who are inconvenienced by these changes."

However, it seems some manufacturers were caught out by the changes. In a statement given to whathifi.com, Naim says:

"As Naim owners and followers of the Naim forum will know, Naim’s R&D had been in contact with the BBC over the changes to their internet radio streaming and were extremely surprised to find the AAC streams changed at the last minute to being encapsulated in a HLS stream. The test transmissions were not. This change appears to be a shock to all of our industry friends as well.

"Unsurprisingly there has been a lot of communication between Naim’s R&D and the BBC Radio team and it appears there was some good news yesterday afternoon. We have reactivated the BBC Radio 3 320kbps link in Naim Choice, as the BBC has made that available again, for some time.

"The solution for accessing the AAC streams within the HLS streams with Naim’s network audio products is not trivial as the code constraints of embedded audio products are tougher than just a ‘relatively’ easy fix on a PC but Naim has already started on the process.

"In the meantime MinimServer has published a very good and effective workaround, which we are also testing. You can find out more about how to use MinimServer by clicking the link below.

MORE: How to use MinimServer to play BBC HLS radio streams on a Naim streamer

"As regards the new Naim NAC-N 272 preamp/streamer, it can still ‘receive’ all the BBC Radio internet streams, and in fact with higher bit rates than last week, but for the moment it does require a small workaround while Naim rewrites their iRadio code to take into account the surprise BBC iRadio changes.

"All Naim network audio products can still receive BBC internet radio feeds at present, albeit in 128kbps MP3 format (excepting BBC Radio 3 UK at 320kbps AAC). Furthermore, given the conversation with the BBC yesterday we’ve agreed more detailed operational interaction with the BBC going forward in order to support customers in the longer term. Podcasts are currently unaffected by the changes, only live streams are/were affected."

Meanwhile, Sonos says it is working to add support for the new HLS streams, and as with Naim products Sonos owners can use MinimServer to access the missing streams. In a statement on its Forums, Sonos says:

"We have a quick update to share today. We can confirm that we’re committed to developing support for HLS streaming. We don’t have a timeline or ETA to share right now, as we are still in the process of investigating the details of the implementation, but as soon as we have more news we’ll share it here."

There's more information on this thread on Sonos's website.

Have you been affected by these changes? If so, let us know in the Comments box below.

Find out more about the BBC's Audio Factory project

 

Comments

The_Lhc's picture

Just to clarify, Sonos users

Just to clarify, Sonos users CAN access the BBC's mp3 streams of all stations but if you have a favourite still pointing to the old WMA streams they need to be removed and the favourite added back in. The problem with the mp3 streams is that they are international feeds and therefore do not carry any sports commentary due to licensing issues. There is currently no workaround for this on Sonos, they are discussing the issue with Tunein. It is unknown at this time whether the current Sonos hardware can support HLS, HDS and DASH (Linn apparently are not supporting HLS as it's a licensed technology).

jim lewis's picture

No news for Yamaha AVR owners

I'm just gobsmacked at how badly managed this whole transition away from WMA streams has been by the BBC. That the manufacturers have been completely wrong footed is an inevitable consequence of this.

Unless I misunderstand there is to be yet another transition to MPEG DASH at some as yet unannounced point in the future, so I hope that at least is better handled.

I use a Yamaha AVR to listen to the BBC streams. Yamaha are reliant on a third party provider in vTuner and I have not been able to find any information about how they are dealing with these changes.

Yamaha simply pointed me to vTuner when I enquired of them so I hope they have some kind of plan, although it is disappointing that Yamaha absolve themselves of any responsibility in this way.

Andy Clough's picture

BBC radio on Sonos

Interesting, when I tried all the BBC stations on my Sonos system at home last night using TuneIn direct (not via stored Favourites), they all worked apart from 5 Live.

iMark's picture

BBC Radio in iTunes

I just checked and the high resolution stream (320 kbps) for Radio 3 has gone completely in iTunes internet radio. All the other streams are currently not working.

AlmaataKZ's picture

Negative change, badly

Negative change, badly managed. I would say unacceptably so. BBC fora and blogs are full of upset customers with irrefutable arguments and questions left unanswered by BBC.

sonicdeth666's picture

WHAT ???

why oh why would people complain to a magazine about what the BBC are doing , surely you would contact the BBC ............If I had a problem with my car, I wouldn't go to a florist to complain !. Why would a company that receives billionsof £'s by way of legal force ( no choice except for NO TV ) listen to a publication that has a readership of less than a coastal town (say Brigton)... they wouldn't.....WHF may get some lip service from the PR dept but thats it .

You pay your licence fee...then you have to put up with whatever guff the BBC churn out , thats it.

Apart from BBC worldwide( which have to generate there own income) no one at there really cares because if you want to watch ANY sort of TV then you have to give money to the BBC , wether you watch the channels or not.

Now I do listen to Radio 4....because there is NO music on there and I can have it on as "audio wallpaper" while I'm doing something else AND I was affected by this , so what did I do , I re-scanned and got it back, I really don't care that its lower quality, radio has never been of high quality anyway .

If you want to complain....go to the horse's mouth, then ( as its regarding the BBC) go to the other end of the horse for the reply Smile

I can't wait for when the beeb losses the right to extort people for money and HAVE to go the subscription route, cos I won't be subscribing !!

Rant over !! whats next 

clanger9's picture

Hopeless BBC management, though not all is lost...

Like many streaming listeners, I was shocked when my internet radios either stopped working or dropped to grotty-sounding 128k MP3. As you point out, MinimServer has done a fantastic job to produce a reasonable workaround. The software is free, but I'd suggest sending them a well-deserved donation. Thanks to this, I can now stream decent-quality BBC radio via my Linn DSM again. This solution should work for any receiver that can handle ShoutCast AAC streams - provided you've got a suitable spare machine handy to do the processing... 

The good news is that the new BBC streams are all 320k AAC, so my radio now sounds better than ever. smiley

However as the guy from Naim points out, none of the manufacturers knew about this change. They knew that the WMA streams were ending, but not that all the other streams were switching to HLS encapsulation. What made people even more annoyed was that after the old streams were shut off, the BBC repeatedly refused to publish the location of the new ones, saying this information was "for manufacturers only". At least the new stream URLs have leaked now.

So there are now workarounds for the reduced streaming quality and loss of sports coverage. It'll (understandably) take Naim, Linn, Logitech et al a bit longer to come up with permanent solutions, assuming existing receivers are even capable of being reprogrammed to handle the more complex HLS streams. Linn have said they will implement HLS, but it'll take them some time because they can't just use existing open-source libraries in their closed-source DSM player.

Unfortunately, the issues around (WMA-only) specialist radios for the blind haven't been addressed and it seems like the "listen again" feature valued by so many listeners is now gone for good.

One step forward, two steps back it seems.

Michael Robinson's picture

Sonos HLS support

Sonos have just announced they intend to support HLS streams but there is no indication yet when this may be available.

In the meantime, Sonos players can also use minimserver to access the higher quality 320k HLS streams and rights-restricted Five Live broadcasts - see the Sonos forums for details.

AlmaataKZ's picture

Bbc have reinstated the hd

Bbc have reinstated the hd shoutcast stream. Whf, time to update the article.

Andy Clough's picture

Updated

It's done.

Georgevolo's picture

internet radio station doesnt work

Good afternoon
I listen to Internet radio for the last 6 months. Specifically to
Republic Radio 100.3 FM
It is located in Thessaloniki/Greece.
But it doesn't work for the last 2 months. It shows up on the list but when i choose it, it doesn't work.
My avr is a Marantz NR 1504. I talked to the technician of the radio station but he said everything is up to date in his systems. He also said the url is the following: 162.252.85.85:9878
Would you please try to check if you could hear to this station? Or if you could advice me on what to do?
Thanks a lot

Andy Clough's picture

Internet radio

Yes, we can see that station is still active and were able to listen to it via iTunes on a MacBook Pro. So the problem would appear to be with the Marantz. They are using ShoutCast to broadcast, have you encountered a similar problem with any other internet radio stations?

And are you listening from within the UK or Greece?

KevH's picture

Quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation - BBC for short

I listen to the BBC stream via my laptop, and while there were some initial teathing problems, it's now back working ok.

However the new stream doesn't sound like 320kb AAC to me. So either the WMA format is superior to AAC or more likely someones been at the optimod settings.

I asked the question at the time, why the BBC was implementing this complex mish-mash of formats and delivery methods. Now they are reaping what was sown, and unfortunately instead of sorting it out properly, what we get is more BBC technology incompetence.

I guess posh boys don't do computers.

 

pcookie's picture

Marantz cr603

Please excuse me if I'm being a bit thick, but I'm still getting all the BBC Internet radio channels on my Marantz cr603 which is pretty old school tech now. Should I be listening to something in a much higher res than I'm getting on the Marantz?

cheers, cookie

Andy Clough's picture

Internet radio

You're probably getting the low-res MP3 streams which is what Sonos owners and others were getting until recently.