BBC offers Radio 4 on satellite: Criticism over service in Europe

RADIO 4 listeners in Europe who are threatened by plans to turn the Long Wave frequency into a 24-hour news broadcast were unenthusiastic about a BBC offer yesterday to broadcast its service via satellite instead, writes Stephen Ward.

Unless the BBC backs down in the face of a sustained protest from listeners at home and abroad, from next spring The Archers, Woman's Hour and plays will be available only on FM, although the Today programme will be retained as part of the rolling news.

Reception on FM is patchy even in the UK, and does not reach mainland Europe. Other complaints include the facts that old radios do not receive FM, and that the FM frequencies vary across the country.

Yesterday, in an attempt to placate the estimated 500,000 listeners abroad, the BBC said that from next month Radios 1, 3, 4 and 5 and the World Service would be available on the Astra satellite.

The news was greeted as 'a step in the right direction' by Chris Garrett, a Brussels-based executive who has been leading the European campaign to save Radio 4 on Long Wave, but he said it was no solution.

'Lots of listeners will not be able to afford the satellite dish, which we estimate costs about pounds 400 altogether over here. And, of course, satellite availability of Radio 4 does not help listeners in their cars,' he said.