Test Match Special to end long wave radio broadcast as part of BBC 'digital-first' cuts

·3-min read
In this file photo taken on July 24, 2019 A general view shows play on the first day of the first cricket Test match between England and Ireland at Lord's cricket ground in London on July 24, 2019 - AFP
In this file photo taken on July 24, 2019 A general view shows play on the first day of the first cricket Test match between England and Ireland at Lord's cricket ground in London on July 24, 2019 - AFP

Tens of thousands of people are in danger of being unable to tune in to Test Match Special in what was branded a “dreadful move” by former England captain Sir Geoffrey Boycott after the BBC announced the closure of Radio 4 Long Wave.

Plans unveiled on Thursday for the corporation to build a “digital-first public service media organisation” included the scrapping the analogue arm of one of its most iconic stations.

The move risks preventing people listening to TMS unless they have access to a digital radio or the internet, something millions of Britons still do not enjoy.

Boycott, who retired from TMS in 2020, told Telegraph Sport: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

“It’s a dreadful thing. But they have no idea, the people running the Beeb. Lots of good people work for the Beeb. But the bosses? My God. They wouldn’t get a job in the real world.”

Henry Blofeld, a TMS commentator for 45 years until his retirement in 2017, said: “Anything that restricts the coverage of TMS and the amount of people who are going to listen to it is extremely sad.

“It’s always been a little bit surprising that the BBC have such a programme that has been such a winner over such a long time but are still reluctant to showcase it as a winner.

“If another long-wave home is not found for it, this must be the case again, mustn’t it?”

TMS, which began delivering ball-by-ball coverage of cricket in 1957, has been a firm fixture on Radio 4 for almost three decades after moving there in 1994.

For the last two decades, it has also aired on Radio 5 Sports Extra, which is only available on digital radio or over the internet.

As well as countless homes being without access to the channel, millions of vehicles remain equipped with analogue radios, meaning people on the move facing being unable to tune into TMS.

In a speech on Thursday to BBC staff, the corporation’s director-general Tim Davie also announced that Radio 5 Live on Medium Wave would close no later than December 2027.

Unless more homes and vehicles gain access to digital radio before then, that could leave millions being unable to tune into the BBC’s other live sports coverage, including Premier League football.

The changes are part of £500 million of annual savings and reinvestment, including the ploughing of £300m into the likes of new programmes for the corporation’s iPlayer service.

Davie said: “This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC. Something genuinely new, a Reithian organisation for the digital age, a positive force for the UK and the world.

“To do that we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts in the market around us.”

A BBC spokesperson said that TMS will remain available on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds.

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