World Service – It’s not just for night owls! 

6 June 2023


Many people in the UK listen to BBC World Service in English through the night on Radio 4‘s long wave frequency or in the afternoon on Radio 5 – but did you know you can tune in at any time of the day or night?

Depending on the type of radio you have and where you live, you can pick up programmes in several ways, although World Service broadcasts are aimed principally at people overseas.

Unlike the rest of BBC radio and television, World Service is financed, not by the annual licence fee, but by a Parliamentary grant. This pays for 24-hour-a-day broadcasts in English and 35 foreign language services.


During the night, broadcasts can be heard right across the United Kingdom on Radio 4‘s long wave frequency, 198kHz (1515m) The changeover to World Service takes place at 12.45am and programmes continue until Radio 4 takes to the air again at 5.45am.


In some parts of England you can also pick up medium wave broadcasts of Europe’s first tri-lingual radio station, BBC for Europe. This features World Service programmes in French and German as well as English on 648kHz (463m).



BBC for Europe is beamed at North-west Europe from Orfordness on the Suffolk coast. Some of the signal is audible “behind” the transmitter and this means it is strongest in parts of East Anglia, London and the South-east, losing strength the further you move away to the north and west.

BBC for Europe carries English programmes (including some BBC English teaching programmes) for nearly 20 hours a day:
Midnight to 4.45am | 4.59pm to 5.30pm
5.30am to 6.30am | 6.14pm to 6.30pm
6.59am to 11.30am | 8.00pm to 8.15pm
11.59am to 4.30pm | 8.30pm to Midnight

Also an hour and three quarters of French programmes:
6.30am to 6.59am | 5.30pm to 6.14pm
11.30am to 11.45am | 8.15pm to 8.30pm

And three hours of German programmes:
4.45am to 5.30am | 4.30pm to 5.00pm
11.45am to 11.59am | 6.30pm to 8.00pm

Radio 5, on 693kHz (433m) and 909kHz (330m), includes in its daily schedule a selection of World Service programmes.

You can hear news and features on Radio 5 from:
6.00am to 6.30am | 2.30pm to 4.35pm
6.30am to 7.30am Sun | Mon – Fri* liable to change

NB For four weeks between the end of September and the end of October it is necessary to add on one hour to the BBC for Europe times.




The traditional way of hearing World Service around the world – on short wave – is also available to people in the United Kingdom equipped with a suitable radio set. You need one with a range of short wave bands, because reception will vary with the time of day and the season. The frequencies to try are: 3.955MHz, 6.045MHz, 6.195MHz, 9.410MHz, 9.750MHz, 12.095MHz, 15.590MHz. With a short wave set you can listen to World Service in English at any time during the day.


Ideally your radio should at least cover 49-16 metres (6-17 MHz). This will enable you to pick up BBC World Service anywhere in Europe. Wider coverage, 90-11 metres (3-27 MHz), is preferable if your journeys take you further afield.

Short wave bands overseas can be very crowded and you may have difficulty finding World Service on an inexpensive radio. Regular travellers might consider buying a more sophisticated set which incorporates a helpful digital display or pre-set tuning, for example.


Reception on all wavebands can vary throughout a room and you should find the best position for your radio – often close to a window. Most portable short wave radios have a telescopic rod aerial which should be fully extended and tried at different angles for the best results.




News and current affairs are at the heart of BBC World Service, but the station offers a wide range of other programmes, including business and finance, sport, music from pop to classical, drama, science, religion and much more.

Many national newspapers list World Service programmes – usually those heard on medium wave on BBC for Europe and on long wave during the night. They also carry Radio 5 details, as of course do Ceefax and Radio Times, which includes usually in the first week of each month a guide to the full World Service schedule as heard on short wave.


Full details of programmes and how to hear them anywhere in the world are contained in World Service’s own monthly magazine London Calling.

A subscription costs £12 per annum. Write to:

BBC London Calling (Distribution)
PO Box 76 S
Bush House

or ring (071) 257 2211 for details.



For further advice and a good selection of short wave radios, plus the whole range of BBC products, call in if you can at the BBC World Shop, in Bush House. The entrance is in the Strand and the shop is open from 9.30am to 6.00pm Mon-Fri; Thurs 9.30am to 7.00pm; Sat 10.00am to 5.00pm.

Or write to BBC World Service Shop, Bush House, Strand, London WC2B 4PH.


Designed and published by
BBC World Service Publicity,
PO Box 76, Bush House,
London WC2B 4PH.
Printed by Converta Ltd, London


Your comment

Enter it below

A member of the Transdiffusion Broadcasting System
Liverpool, Thursday 18 April 2024