BBC said it'll pull radio streams from TuneIn to slurp more of your data but nobody noticed till Amazon put its foot in it

Hell hath no fury like a licence payer scorned


The BBC has once again drawn ire from the loyal TV licence-paying public by pulling its live radio streams from third-party services.

Perhaps listeners would have gone quietly over to the BBC Sounds app launched earlier this year – which is very much part of the motivation for the move – were it not for Old Auntie Beeb's bare-faced admission that such outside platforms simply weren't providing the broadcaster with enough of your delicious data.

Back in August, Kieran Clifton, director of BBC Distribution & Business Development, wrote on the BBC Blog: "From August 30th, our live radio streams will no longer be available via TuneIn on some platforms in the UK. We're working closely with TuneIn to ensure that this is done in a way that doesn't disrupt your overall listening experience – so our live radio streams are only coming off TuneIn on platforms where an alternative way of listening is easily available."

That date was incorrect, by the way. It was actually set for 30 September.

TuneIn is an American audio streaming service that delivers content from more than 120,000 radio stations to 75 million monthly active users. Crucially, it enjoys integration with Amazon's Echo devices, which is how many listeners engage with the platform.

Clifton went on to explain the reasoning behind the decision: "We want our programmes, products and services to be the best they can be. And a major way we ensure that is by using meaningful data.

"Data is more and more important – as it helps us to make more types of programmes we know people like, and equally importantly, identify gaps in our commissioning to ensure we're making something for all audiences.

"We also use the data collected about what you watch, listen to or read online to offer personalised programme recommendations – and make our services even more tailored to you."

Here's the rub, though: "When we make our programmes available via third parties, we ask that those platforms either allow you to sign into your BBC account – or provide us with meaningful data directly. Unfortunately, TuneIn doesn't do either of these, so we couldn't reach a data sharing agreement with them."

To add insult to injury, Clifton said: "Outside the UK, our services with TuneIn will continue as is – as they are and continue to be a valued partner." So it is the people who actually pay for the BBC to exist who are getting shafted.

The BBC's announcement, according to Reg reader Rufus Addis, "went largely unnoticed" – until Amazon emailed all their Alexa customers with a link to the blog post. The missive reads:

We are writing to you regarding playing BBC live radio streams via TuneIn on your Echo device(s).

Beginning on 30th September, BBC will cease support for BBC live radio streams via TuneIn on Echo devices. You can still access BBC radio stations via the "BBC" Alexa skill however, this skill does not currently support playback via routines, alarms/timers, Multi-Room Music Playback or Echo companion devices (Echo Sub, Echo Link and Echo Link Amp).

As a past user of BBC radio as an alarm via TuneIn on your Echo device(s), we wanted to make you aware of this change. Moving forward, any alarm with a BBC radio station will automatically default to the standard alarm tone.

So not only are Alexa users "encouraged" to employ "a poorly rated skill which breaks multi-room" – in the words of another reader, Steve Scott – but they will be jolted awake by the device's default alarm, which we can only imagine is an inferior experience to the dulcet tones of Radio 4's Today show. And by surprise. Oof.

Of course, we at The Register don't own smart speakers for a variety of reasons so we wouldn't know.

When Addis gave us the headsup on Friday, there were "over 400 comments to the blog post, most made since the email landed [in the] last couple of hours, and none of the posts are very positive towards the BBC's decision!"

At the time of writing, there were 866, with a new one appearing every few minutes. It's safe to say that the Great radio-devouring British public has woken up to this fact – and they aren't happy. Gems include:

"Hey Kieran, your silence to the anger your stupid decision has caused BBC listeners expressed here and elsewhere speaks volumes for the contempt your £189,999 salary has given you. Man up and answer the questions raised by your wage payers."

"This seems wholly disproportionate by the BBC and against the spirit of its charter. Those of us who have in good faith adopted platforms that include TuneIn to access free to air content now find ourselves blocked. If the BBC has done this simply because it is standing on the principle of requiring access to some usage data it must surely demonstrate that not having access to this data, for what must be only a very small part of is user base, is materially detrimental to it fulfilling its public broadcasting function and a therefore justification for cutting off us off. It is mute on this point, and I can't think of any possible justification."

"Really annoyed by this change this morning. I can no longer use my echo device [to] get BBC radio stations to play on my Sonos. This is my primary listening method. You specifically state above that 'we have a remit to make sure you can watch and listen to our programmes in ways that are both easy and convenient for you'. You have made it all much more inconvenient for me resulting in me listening to BBC much less. How can you justify this? Guess I'll have to listen to commercial radio instead or force me to buy a newer Sonos One at 250 quid. Not on."

Some are less civil. As reader Scott put it, using our own terminology: "It seems like the Beeb is putting data slurpage above the needs of the listeners, creating a bunch of e-waste and are sticking their fingers in their ears at the barrage of complaints!"

The Register has contacted the BBC for comment on the move, particularly what data it is trying to capture and how it will help the corporation "make sure you can watch and listen to our programmes in ways that are both easy and convenient for you". ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its new home – an orbit almost a million miles from Earth

    Funnily enough, that's where we want to be right now, too

    The James Webb Space Telescope, the largest and most complex space observatory built by NASA, has reached its final destination: L2, the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, an orbit located about a million miles away.

    Mission control sent instructions to fire the telescope's thrusters at 1400 EST (1900 UTC) on Monday. The small boost increased its speed by about 3.6 miles per hour to send it to L2, where it will orbit the Sun in line with Earth for the foreseeable future. It takes about 180 days to complete an L2 orbit, Amber Straughn, deputy project scientist for Webb Science Communications at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said during a live briefing.

    "Webb, welcome home!" blurted NASA's Administrator Bill Nelson. "Congratulations to the team for all of their hard work ensuring Webb's safe arrival at L2 today. We're one step closer to uncovering the mysteries of the universe. And I can't wait to see Webb's first new views of the universe this summer."

    Continue reading
  • LG promises to make home appliance software upgradeable to take on new tasks

    Kids: empty the dishwasher! We can’t, Dad, it’s updating its OS to handle baked on grime from winter curries

    As the right to repair movement gathers pace, Korea’s LG has decided to make sure that its whitegoods can be upgraded.

    The company today announced a scheme called “Evolving Appliances For You.”

    The plan is sketchy: LG has outlined a scenario in which a customer who moves to a locale with climate markedly different to their previous home could use LG’s ThingQ app to upgrade their clothes dryer with new software that makes the appliance better suited to prevailing conditions and to the kind of fabrics you’d wear in a hotter or colder climes. The drier could also get new hardware to handle its new location. An image distributed by LG shows off the ability to change the tune a dryer plays after it finishes a load.

    Continue reading
  • IBM confirms new mainframe to arrive ‘late’ in first half of 2022

    Hybrid cloud is Big Blue's big bet, but big iron is predicted to bring a welcome revenue boost

    IBM has confirmed that a new model of its Z Series mainframes will arrive “late in the first half” of 2022 and emphasised the new device’s debut as a source of improved revenue for the company’s infrastructure business.

    CFO James Kavanaugh put the release on the roadmap during Big Blue’s Q4 2021 earnings call on Monday. The CFO suggested the new release will make a positive impact on IBM’s revenue, which came in at $16.7 billion for the quarter and $57.35bn for the year. The Q4 number was up 6.5 per cent year on year, the annual number was a $2.2bn jump.

    Kavanaugh mentioned the mainframe because revenue from the big iron was down four points in the quarter, a dip that Big Blue attributed to the fact that its last mainframe – the Z15 – emerged in 2019 and the sales cycle has naturally ebbed after eleven quarters of sales. But what a sales cycle it was: IBM says the Z15 has done better than its predecessor and seen shipments that can power more MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second) than in any previous program in the company’s history*.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022