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Free DAB radios for over 70s as BBC local radio aims to Make a Difference

BBC local radio is teaming up with manufacturers, retailers and a loneliness charity to offer free DAB radios to the most vulnerable people aged over 70.


It comes as millions of people are forced to stay in their homes and isolate from their friends and families because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Radio is a vital source of news, information and companionship in these unprecedented times and BBC local radio wants to ensure as many people as possible have access to it.

So it will be giving away DAB digital radios to people nominated by local radio listeners. It’s part of the BBC’s Make A Difference campaign, which was launched in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak. It is running across all 39 BBC local radio stations in England and is aimed at connecting communities.

The BBC’s partners in the initiative have set a set aside thousands of DAB radios to be given away for free to vulnerable people aged over 70. From Monday March 30, anyone can nominate someone for a free radio by completing an online application form at

The radios have been donated by Argos, Currys PC World, John Lewis & Partners, Pure and Roberts Radio and will be distributed by loneliness charity Wavelength, who provide technology to those in need. Manufacturer Duracell UK will provide batteries.

Tony Hall, the Director-General of the BBC, says: “Local radio is a lifeline at this time and has never been more important as a source of trusted local news and information, and also as a companion for people who are isolating. Make A Difference is already having a huge impact right across the country with 28,000 thousand calls in just five days. It is offering support and practical solutions to people who have nowhere else to turn.

“We want everyone who needs access to the radio to have it, that’s why we’re giving away DAB radios. I’m proud we’ve been able to coordinate this initiative with our partners who have been so generous in offering their resources.”

Tim Leech, Chief Executive of WaveLength, says: “WaveLength has been fighting loneliness for the last 80 years. We are delighted to come together with all partners to help provide radios to those over 70s most in need. This is what Wavelength was born to do!”

Kesah Trowell, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Currys PC World, says: “We’re pleased to be a part of this partnership. Older members of our communities are already particularly vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation, but with the added fear of the Coronavirus and no visits from friends or family, we hope these radios will not only keep them up to date with local and national news, but also help to keep them entertained and provide a source of comfort during this difficult time.”

Hubert Eiter, Head of Marketing at Pure Ltd, says: “Make a Difference is a great initiative by the BBC and we are honored to be part of this.”

Diane Fuller, Sales & Marketing Director Roberts Radio, says: “Roberts has been supplying radios to the UK for nearly 90 years and will continue to do so in supporting our elderly and vulnerable during these challenging times. We believe radio connects communities and provides much-needed companionship and information, and we are proud to be supporting this initiative.”

Research commissioned in 2012 for World Radio Day by digital radio brand Pure showed on average one in four people go days without speaking to anyone. With new restrictions on leaving the home and new rules around social distancing, that figure will rise with older people the most affected.

Make a Difference is a coordinated campaign run across all of 39 BBC Local Radio stations in England. It aims to work as a virtual community notice board, linking together those who want to give help with those in need. Since it started, the BBC’s local radio stations have been receiving more than 8,000 calls a day from members of the public.

Among those it has helped include Tony, a father of three young children from Nottingham who has terminal lung disease. He called Radio Nottingham to encourage people to stop panic buying. He explained he couldn’t go out shopping because of his condition and was struggling to get online deliveries to his home. The radio station was inundated with offers of help and a local community group delivered Tony vital goods within hours of him calling the station.

In Lincolnshire, a voluntary first responders group rang Radio Lincolnshire to ask for help after they ran out of hand sanitiser. Within minutes of their on air appeal, a local gin distiller offered to convert their distilling process to produce alcohol-based sanitiser for them. They are now supplying the group.

Further details of the free DAB radio scheme can be found at

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