The BBC Ashley Highfield podcast

18 November 2007

Well I got around to listening to the Ashley Highfield podcast and I felt it answered some questions, but still left me feeling the BBC could do so much more.

Firstly standards. The BBC has always (until now) supported open standards. Radio transmission, Analogue TV (PAL) digital TV (DVB-T) digital radio (DAB) etc. Why is the internet different? Why do you have to use proprietary standards for Listen again (real player) when plenty of perfectly good open standards exist.

Is it because it is meant to be a streaming service that you cant record? Well I am sorry then it is just a fig leaf because it can be recorded.

The exact same argument will happen with the video streaming service. You will placate your rights holders by saying that the streaming service cant be recorded but I suspect that this will be easily fixed when we see the details. So this is just another fig leaf.

The rights holders should be told that all their content is out there for free anyway. It just that those using it are not making too many waves. I do understand that we need to bring these slow and clunking companies and people along the journey and I commend the BBC for pushing on this.

The solution for iPlayer and the horrible DRM is to do what the Open Rights group advocated and launch a streaming service. Register your computer with your TV licence number and use a streaming video format. Yes it will be easy to record, but that is what happens now with broadcast TV.

Cory Doctorow also commented on the podcast.

There is also the Open Rights Group That produced a Compelling argument (pdf) for the BBC to drop the iPlayer and concentrate on a streaming service.

Well I would say the answer is Miro brought to you by the Participatory Culture Foundation.

What really needs to happen is for the BBC to release the back catalogue as Greg Dyke said they would at the start of all of this.

I guess what we need to do is keep plugging away at the people involved in this. Eventually they will see the light.


The BBC Listen Again to pod

26 June 2007

I have been downloading and listening to some of the BBC podcasts for some time now. I quite enjoy Digital Planet, and In Business. But through some frustration that the scope of this is so limited and knowing that mplayer played the full range of programs from the Radio Player website I did a little searching around and found this little script. I had a bit of a play around with this and added a few bits to it to make it a bit better, like getting the stream info and using these to set the ID tag for the audio file.

I was a little hesitant in releasing this to a wider world until I found that this product essentially did the same thing, (I bet there is some GPL software in there). And I also had a careful look at the BBC website’s terms of use which clearly state it is ok for personal non-commercial use.

So here is the current state of my script for converting streams from the BBC to mp3 or ogg. I use this to keep me amused on the daily commute. I do get annoyed with the number and the volume of announcements on the trains, I am already sat down so don’t need to know where first class is, or to take all my stuff with me, as to reading the safety card, has anyone ever read it?

I would welcome and suggestions for changes or improvements, to the script that is.

The BBC iPlayer project and DRM

10 June 2007

The news that the BBC is proposing to use Microsoft Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) as the basis of their iPlayer project is worrying.

The BBC has a duty to lead in the media world which it has fulfilled for many years, making the UK a leader in many of the media technologies and content throughout the world. This has a direct impact on the UK economy.

This is because the BBC has always used open standards. A direct parallel is the development of GSM mobile phones largely lead by the UK has resulted in a worldwide technology that I work in.

I believe we are at a similar turning point with digital media. If the BBC does not show the leadership demonstrated with its other on-line services we will disenfranchise the UK citizen and damage the position of the UK in the world.

I would urge everyone to sign the petition and write to your MP