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23 Jul 2023 : Public Service Unbroadcasting #
Benefits come from the strangest of places. When the BBC withdrew its open radio streaming services at the start of the month I felt pretty frustrated. All the indicators suggested this was a great move for the BBC, not so great for listeners like me. Withdrawing MP3 streams means users have been forced to move to the BBC Sounds app or website if they want to listen to live radio online. The BBC gets one fewer service to maintain, plus the ability to better track listening habits, advertise podcasts and other means of user manipulation.
BBC Sounds Android app, website and the Sailfish OS Received app

This is an especially big hit for me, because when it comes to Sailfish OS — the smartphone operating system I use in preference to iOS or Android for reasons of privacy and control — there is no official native BBC Sounds app. I can run it using App Support, but what I really want is to listen to the radio through one of my preferred, native, open source apps (such as Received). I've been happily doing so for a decade, and while I accept the BBC is entitled to make its content available (or not) in whatever way it wants, it's frustrating to have a perfectly good option taken away.

So where's the upside? It's counterintuitive, but not listening to the radio turns out to be a really good thing. Since dropping the service my mornings have become an oasis of calm. They're no longer filled with politicians, pundits and presenters verbally sparing with one another. I don't have to suffer the banality of the sports coverage (made worse by the lack of any actual live sports in the mornings). The treacly vacuity of Thought for the Day is blissfully absent from my life.

It was during the pandemic that my obsession with the radio really embedded. Like everyone else I was desperate to know whether we were going to survive the next 24 hours. Stuck in a small apartment on my own it became an important proxy for real human interaction.

Happily that time is over, both the pandemic and the obsessive listening. I now sit quietly, listening to the birds sing, the leaves rustling in the breeze, the occasional propeller plane humming overhead. It's soothing. My anxiety is reduced. And I'm now certain this BBC-enforced calm is a positive change after all.

Having said all this, I've not stopped listening to BBC Radio completely: hapilly all BBC radio content is still available using my own GetiPlay app. This doesn't support live streaming though, so it means I have to actively choose to listen, rather than blithely surrounding myself with whatever happens to be on.


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