Eighteen BBC Local Radio stations fall silent

Eighteen BBC Local Radio services went off-air on Friday morning due to major technical problems around the network.

The stations affected all use the BBC ViLoR system – which connects local radio studios with servers in London rather than use local hard drives for music, audio and studio software.

Listeners complained shortly before 8am about the silence on local stations. A total of 33 transmitters on FM, DAB and AM went quiet before stations started rebroadcasting 5 live. Shortly afterwards stations reconnected to their transmitters via ISDN but online streams remained on 5 live till at least 11am.

The BBC announced at 9am today – “Technical problems are continuing to affect output at a number of BBC Local Radio stations this morning, including at BBC Three Counties. Engineers are working to fix the problem but at the moment it’s not known how long it will be before normal service resumes.”

BBC Essex tweeted: “We’ve been having a couple of technical issues today but our engineers are working hard behind the scenes to resume normal service as soon as possible.”

BBC Three Counties updated listeners at midday saying they are back on-air locally but unable to play any jingles, songs or recorded voice reports. Phone lines were down across the network but the text-in number worked as normal.

A source told RadioToday one or more BBC ViLoR radio services on all platforms suffered an outage, resulting from an equipment failure.

The BBC said BT has confirmed that the issue was caused by an engineer carrying out pre-work activities in Oxford where a fibre tray was disturbed at the time of the incident.

Stations affected, with a mixture of FM, MW and DAB, were 3CR, Berkshire, Cumbria, Derby, Devon, Essex, Gloucester, Humberside, Leicester, Lincolnshire, Newcastle, Northampton, Oxford, Solent (plus Dorset opt-out), Suffolk, Tees and Wiltshire.

BBC engineers are attempting a full restoration of ViLoR services overnight whilst local stations broadcast 5 live.

ViLoR – standing for Virtual Local Radio – was introduced in 2014 and is currently rolling out to all BBC Local Radio stations. At the time, Joe Pignatiello, ViLoR trainer and developer, said “ViLoR provides cutting edge kit to local radio stations, bringing them up to the level of network radio” and by design has back-up facilities included.

RadioToday has contacted the BBC for additional information and will update this story in due course.

Posted on Friday, September 1st, 2017 at 10:50 pm by RadioToday staff

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6 Comments

  1. ST says

    Well Joe … where’s the ” back-up facilities” you mentioned then ???

    How much does ViLoR actually save the beeb ? Surely the main costs are studio builds upfront ? Most of that seems to be cheaper, plasticky gear for ViLoR, the cobbled split desk is a strange sight to behold … Ongoing costs for storing music & audio remotely surely won’t make many savings ? And look what happens when you relieve local stations the ability to play audio locally … An audio clip of Kent struggling with a CD is out there !!! Fancy not having your station ID’s to hand on some other media … You could sort that with an iPad & jack to XLR patch !!!

    So yep Joe … I’ve seen the ViLoR video, looks great … but have you worked out those backup facilities yet ? 😉

    Lessons will hopefully be learned …

  2. Ray Woodward says

    This is one of those events which will only happen once – it leaves both BT and the BBC with egg on their faces.

    Steps will be taken to ensure it never happens again …

  3. Dan Dean says

    And did anyone notice that these dated stations which are not relevant in today’s world had gone off air.
    What is the point of them?????…with the exception of a handful i don’t know a single person that listens to them. The cost to us, as taxpayers for the buildings alone is astronomical, and they are all so overstaffed it is a scandal. Having worked at a couple of these stations during the 80’s it never ceases to amaze me how few of their own staff ever have a good word to say about the output, and even fewer listen….

  4. joe says

    I’m surprised anyone noticed.

  5. johnson says

    If BBC Radio Shropshire had gone down you would have heard the screams of protest in London –

  6. Frankie Gillard says

    Reports of tumbleweed around BBC local radio stations might be exaggerated. A glance at the latest Rajar shows the ranking of BBC Local Radio’s listening figures to be set squarely amid commercial networks with solid business models e.g. Capital brand and Heart brand. Reach in terms of numbers is six percent above BBC Radio 5 Live, and less than a million listeners behind BBC Radio 1.

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