The Day I Saved the BBC

I like to be able to turn on the radio and have classical music be there. With the disappearance of classical radio in general around the U.S. I was listening to radio less and less. Then came XM satellite and for awhile we really enjoyed classical in the car, although the main announcer, Martin Goldsmith, had a way of saying his own name in a weird way -- Golllld-smith -- about 500 times a day and after awhile you were wondering if it was worth it just to hear a little Mendelssohn, whose quartets Martin Golllld-smith played a lot.

So much so that we cancelled XM.

And then came BBC Radio 3 on the web. BBC Radio 3 is what I would also want in paradise if I could somehow get my record fudged. The BBC has unlimited funds with which to do great things (raised through a tax on TVs and the lottery) so unlike our public radio and TV there is no sponsorship, no pledge weeks, no endless non-commercials from Exxon and the local law firm. And very, very little self-promotion about what you just heard what you're going to hear later and how all this was brought to you by people just like you who, if they knew better, would probably be listening to the BBC.

Strangely, as I write this on Saturday morning, the BBC is playing the live feed from the Met in New York. We could listen to the Met directly over our local college station that also feeds it, but the station puts out a poor quality signal. So the Met sounds better coming from New York via London to San Francisco via the web. Amazing.

It was too good to last, this classical music paradise. You know how it is with little perfections, that bakery shop around the corner with their dreamy cream puffs and one day the door doesn't open and the counters are gone. And you notice the 'Retired' sign in the window. Two weeks ago, the BBC signal suddenly turned into a parody of itself -- a digital hash with echoes and a rapid chopping effect. You could tell what they were broadcasting, but it was unlistenable. No classical radio when I was shaving. No classical radio Sunday morning. No classical radio during dinner. Every few hours I would try the feed again, hoping against hope that it was some technical error that someone had overlooked. But that seemed absurd. How could the mighty, perfectionist BBC, the greatest institution in the history of broadcasting not know that something was wrong with the single greatest source of culture available in the entire universe? Impossible.

So I searched the BBC's technical websites to see why they were scrambling our signal. Maybe they had changed policy and weren't going to let the rest of the world freeload on the British taxpayers. Seemed reasonable, but sad if true. But I could find no statement, no press release, no mention of an intent to scramble their feed to outsiders.

I found a BBC technical website that seemed preoccupied with the event surrounding the fact that some department was moving across the street. I wrote that my signal had been screwed up for days and wondered if that were intentional. I explained I had tried on several different computers. I also mentioned that rebroadcasts of BBC Radio 3 programs were streaming just fine.

Imagine my surprise when I got a Google alert this morning from the BBC website. Someone read me, checked out my concern, and discovered that the BBC signal to the entire world had indeed been unlistenable for weeks. And they fixed it.

I am pleased to announce that as of this morning, BBC Radio 3 is back on the web.

Shows you something about the leverage of the social media. A single radio listener can save paradise for the whole world. With just a few keystrokes.