UK music industry silences radio for overseas listeners

From 1 April 2006, internet streams of British independent radio stations ceased to be available for listeners outside the UK.

Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), who collect royalties on behalf of record companies, informed broadcasters that they are only in a position to sell broadcasting rights for the UK. Therefore, when the old licences expired on 31 March, all of the independent radio stations had to restrict their internet streams to British listeners only.

Radio has never stopped at national boundaries, such is the nature of radio waves. The internet should be a technology that brings people from different countries closer by breaking down communication barriers. It should now be easier than ever to reach a global audience, without having to construct a network of shortwave radio transmitters. But instead, the music industry is using this technology to place restrictions on who can listen to radio stations, based on geographical location. It’s turning technology against people instead of using if for the common good. In much the same way, it should now be easier to distribute recordings and sell them online, but the music industry has insisted on crippling such products with so called “digital rights management” (DRM) which makes the online purchase far inferior to buying a physical CD.

I am a regular Classic FM listener, and there would often be e-mails read out from people listening on the other side of the world (for example, a lunchtime request sent in by an American listener over breakfast). That has now ended. So for all those people who don’t know anyone from outside their own country, that one time of the day where they might have felt part of a global community has been taken away, a step backwards to the insularity of the pre-information age.

There is, however, some light relief, and an indication that the broadcasters aren’t exactly happy with the new arrangements. Coupled with the 1 April date, I even thought the whole story might be a joke, but sadly not. GCap Media plc, who own many independent radio stations including Classic FM and Capital Radio, have restricted their internet streams to listeners in the UK. This is done primarily by IP address, but in case they wrongly identify a UK-based listener as being abroad, they also offer the option of entering a valid British postcode to prove that the user is in the UK. This is the message that overseas listeners receive when they attempt to listen online to Classic FM:

Due to licensing changes, we’re only allowed to offer our radio stream to those in the UK. You seem to be outside the UK, so you need to enter a valid UK postcode below:
[…]
If you don’t have cookies enabled, you’ll have to enter your postcode each time you listen. This service is managed by GCap Media plc, 30 Leicester Square, LONDON, WC2H 7LA

That wouldn’t be a valid UK postcode that’s part of their address, by any chance? Just in case listeners are uncertain about this, Capital Radio give the following advice on their How to Listen page:

If you don’t live in the UK, and are unable to provide a valid postcode (eg WC2H 7LA) you will be unable to connect to the player.

Given that GCap didn’t ask for this restriction in the first place, there are no prizes for guessing whether entering their own postcode in the box allows the listener to hear the internet stream. But even if it didn’t work, it’s simple enough to find a valid UK postcode anyway.

88 responses to “UK music industry silences radio for overseas listeners”

Showing comments 1 to 10

  1. Memphis Raines

    Good Day Sir..

    I live in Miami, Fl .. and am unable to stream ClassicFm. I found your above article extremely infomative… I tried putting in a valid UK postal code after running a search using your search engine. However I am still not able to get a feed.

    I would appreciate any tips and or info you can give as I am a huge fan of classicfm..

    Many thanks for your help and hoping o hear from you soon

    Reagrds
    Memphis

  2. Dave Clark

    I also was a long term overseas Classic FM listener until recently. I live in Canada but I entered my old UK postal code, which allowed me to get online for a few weeks. Now I cannot connect at all, but simply get the message “Opening…”. After a few seconds it times out and stops trying to connect. I agree with your comments, and I am very disappointed at the loss of this fine streaming audio. I still continue to get e-mail from Classic FM, as I have contacted them several times and felt a part of the community.

  3. Jonathan

    Since I wrote the article, Classic FM have moved the stream to a different server. Now, the servers for both the playlist (mediaweb.musicradio.com) and the actual stream (mediasrv.musicradio.com) are unreachable from outside the UK (or from certain countries at least). This is quite separate from the postcode validation, which continues to operate. Entering a correct postcode just leaves the browser attempting to connect to the server.

    If they are no longer going to allow listening from outside the UK using a postcode, they should remove the instructions for doing so from the site!

    I’ll keep working on this, and will report anything I find here. If anyone else has any success listening, or has anything else to add, please leave a comment.

  4. Ed Clark

    I also am a longtime Classic FM listener and have the same problems as those above. I have contacted them and received the same response to place a valid UK postal code in the assigned box. I’ve placed many and always get the connecting then ready command but unable to do anything else.
    Please let us know if any progress is being made. Keep up the good work.
    Hubertus, WI

  5. steve clark

    I am an active listener of classicfm. I appreciate your work on this matter in hopes that the issue can be resolved.

  6. Peter Morris

    What is it with the record companies, are they trying to turn everyone against them? …aren’t they shooting themselves in the foot? – all of my recent CD purchases have been based on music I’ve heard and liked from sources such as Classic FM.
    And now, I can no longer listen to it (I live in Holland), and it makes me so sad. Saturday mornings are not the same anymore.

  7. John Rose

    What a bad decision to cut off non UK listeners! It reminds me of the man who had to carry a flag in front of early cars.
    The whole point of the internet is comminication and this decision is a BIG step backwards.
    So a Canadian listener hears Classic FM from the UK – so what? I can listen the BBC. How can my listening to a passive feed upset anybody?
    Come on guys, this is the 21 century – this decision belongs in the dark ages of censorship
    John Rose
    Calgary
    Canada

  8. Chris Forster

    Like Peter (above), I live in Holland. For several years I have been listening to Classic FM online while I work. I get the newsletters, I enter the contests, I buy the magazine, and I buy many of the CDs that I hear on the programmes.

    But one day last week I was suddenly cut off. I too was very, very sad. I actually cried. It’s like being thrown out of your favourite club, like losing a close friend. Happily, I have an alternative: I can listen via the satellite. But most of the Classic FM international community don’t have that option. I hope that someone sees sense and restores the internet stream soon.

    BTW, this situation is being blamed on ‘licensing arrangements’. If Classic FM itself does not agree with the restrictions, surely it would be able to invoke the European rules (Treaty of Rome, arts. 48 to 73) which provide for the ‘free movement of persons, services and capital’ throughout the European Union?

  9. David Potts

    I wish to join the sentiments expressed on this page.

    My wife and used to find ClassicFM an invaluable link with our home country – keeping up with the news, hearing new CD’s (and buying them – no restriction there…) and just thouroughly enjoying an English voice.

    But it has all gone, as of June 1 (UK time).

    Maybe we were lucky to miss the April 1 cutoff, but we now feel bereft.

    ‘Classic King FM’ (the Seattle equivalent) just doesn’t cut it in terms of quality or presentation.

    Anyone know of a proxy server re-broadcasting the content ?!

  10. David Helton

    Yes, Classic FM UK was also my favorite station. If anyone knows any way to access it, please let us know.

    Michigan, USA

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