Internet radio graphic

Tune into and use internet radio

  • Top 10 tips for listening to live radio over the internet
  • How to catch BBC radio shows using 'listen again'
  • Download RealPlayer, Adobe Flash Player and iTunes

Thanks to internet radio, not only can you listen to your favourite programmes and stations via your computer, but you can also track down shows that you missed and check out new radio stations from all over the world. All you need is a computer, broadband connection and a set of speakers.

1Media players

Realplayer

Listen to radio in Realplayer

Listening to internet radio often involves tuning in via your web browser. 

Different radio services use different technologies to broadcast their stations over the web, so you'll need to make sure that your browser is equipped with a number of different plugins so that it can play the various different types of audio stream it encounters. 

The main plugins to add to your browser are RealPlayer and Adobe Flash Player. You can download the free RealPlayer here – click on the 'Download Free RealPlayer' link. For the free Adobe Flash Player go here and click 'Download now'.

2Listen to live radio

Most national radio stations are available to listen to live online. However, it's worth noting that depending on your broadband speed, the internet transmission may be a few seconds behind the analogue broadcast by the time it reaches your ears. 

Just typing into Google the name of the radio station you want to listen to is a good place to start to find the station you want. Many stations, including the BBC, require you to have a plugin like RealPlayer installed in order to listen - see Tip 1 above on how to install plugins.

3BBC iPlayer and Radioplayer

Radioplayer

Search for shows on Radioplayer

You can access BBC radio and TV stations in one place using BBC iPlayer, but for access to a wider range of UK radio stations, including both BBC and commercial stations in one place, you can use RadioPlayer. 

With Radioplayer you can save internet radio stations as favourites that will be remembered next time you use RadioPlayer on the same computer. It also has a keyword search function, so you can search for radio shows that play certain types of music or discuss particular subjects. 

See our First Look review of RadioPlayer for more information on how it works.

4Listen again

Missed your favourite BBC radio show? Don't worry - you can take advantage of the BBC’s 'Listen Again' feature. It's available on BBC radio station websites, and in iPlayer and RadioPlayer. Look for Listen Again – you may need to scroll – and click it. If you know the name of the DJ whose show you want to listen to you can type that into the search function and this should bring up a list of any available Listen Again shows.

The range of programmes available differs from station to station, but you'll usually find a week's worth of programmes available, arranged alphabetically. Simply select your missed show, sit back and listen.

5Finding new stations

There are hundreds of thousands of radio stations on the internet. If you fancy trying something different, radio directory sites such as Shoutcast, Live365 and Radio Tower can help you track down new radio stations and they're also reasonably user-friendly. Use the directories to find a suitable genre, and then click on whatever station takes your fancy.

6Using Windows Media Player

Windows media player - media gude

Listen to radio using Windows Media Player

You can use Windows Media Player (WMP) to find new radio stations. 

Open WMP by clicking 'Start' > 'All Programs' > 'Windows Media Player'. Click the 'Media Guide' button on the top toolbar, and then select 'Radio Tuner' from the links on the right-hand side. 

Search by keyword or click a genre and select a station from the list. Click 'Play' to listen. A box may appear asking if you want to play this content – click 'Yes'. 

To go back to your search list, click the WMP Back button (the arrow in the blue circle, top left).

7Using iTunes

If you use a Mac or an iPod, you may already be familiar with iTunes – Apple's free software for organising your music and podcasts. If not, you can download the latest version of iTunes to your computer from Apple's iTunes download page.

iTunes has hundreds of radio stations built in, so you can listen on your computer via iTunes. Simply click the Radio icon under where it says ‘Library’ in the left-hand taskbar and then choose your genre from the main browser window. Double-click a station to play it. 

iTunes can also be used for listening to podcasts (see tip 10 below) and organising your music.

8Using RealPlayer

If you installed RealPlayer in Tip 1, you can also use it to help you find new radio stations. To open RealPlayer, click 'Start' > 'All Programs' > 'Real' > 'RealPlayer'. Click 'View' and select 'Radio'. Use the tabs labelled ‘BBC Radio’ and ‘UK Radio’ to look for more UK stations. 

To search further afield, click the ‘World Radio’ tab. Next, use the Genre, Country and Language drop-down menus to help you find something you'll like.

9Podcasts

Podcast icon

You can download some shows as podcasts

Many radio stations let you download podcasts – regularly updated audio or video clips of radio shows that have usually been edited so that they don't contain any copyrighted material, such as music. 

Podcasts are usually free to download and can be transferred to a portable player, such as an iPod, to listen to at your convenience. 

Many radio stations make their podcasts available from their own websites. The BBC podcast directory, for example, has podcasts that range from the Chris Evans Breakfast show highlights to entire episodes of Radio 4’s Farming Today.

10Podcasts in iTunes

iTunes provides not only a useful directory of podcasts, but also a method of subscribing to regular episodes. Launch the player and click on the 'iTunes Store' link in the left-hand taskbar. In the top-left menu (labelled ‘iTunes Store’) click the Podcasts link and browse for something you want. 

You can download a single podcast or click the ‘Subscribe’ button to set iTunes to automatically download new episodes to your computer as they are released. For a more detailed step-by-step guide see our 'How to download podcasts' page.

Which? podcasts

Which? has regular podcasts, full of advice, news and money-saving tips you can use on the move. Find out more about Which? podcasts: