Sunday, 12 June 2005

BBC: free downloads

The good ol' British Broadcasting Corporation is really coming along nicely with things digital these days.

UPDATE: free download of BBC TV programmes, for a limited period after initial broadcast, should be with us in May or June 2007 via the new BBC iPlayer - with UK-based computers, anyway. See this post.

Creative Archive

First they started the Creative Archive Group (for more on which see this post), to allow free personal downloading of video and audio clips from the archives of the Beeb and other members like Channel 4, which can be freely used and remixed etc. True, not much has been made available yet (only some old short films from the British Film Instititute), and the BBC hasn't actually put out any video via the Creative Archive, itself - but it's a start, and they seem to be trying to negotiate with programme makers for the ability to make their programmes available in the Creative Archive in future. This archive seems to be very much focussed on "educational purposes" though, and no I don't mean "educational" in that sense, sorry to disappoint you! The most popular type of clips voted for was apparently science and nature, and then history. All I can say is, I missed the voting on that myself, and I don't think it would have been my personal top choice… so if you want to have your say on what you most want to be downloadable on the audio front (with the oh so exciting choices of classic speeches, classical music and sound effects - it's all to help you get creative dahling!), then vote here.

Podcasting and downloading trial

Next, they stepped up a podcasting/downloading trial - allowing free downloading of radio programmes in unprotected non-proprietary formats like MP3 which you can transfer to your MP3 player such as the ubiquitous Apple iPod (and they've even included basic instructions, a "howto" on podcasting). Again the programmes in their trial, like the Today Programme and Sportsweek, aren't exactly the most thrilling as far as I'm concerned, personally - until this last week, when they decided to make all of Beethoven's symphonies available for free download for a week starting with the day after the radio broadcast (they started broadcasting on Monday 6 June). For some strange reason they've included the links on the downloads page, but announced the symphonies via the Creative Archive site.

The main purpose of this post is to suggest, if you like that sort of thing, that you get downloading now. Tomorrow, Monday 13 June, is the last day when you can download Symphonies No. 1 and 3.

iMP (Interactive Media Player)

The iMP concept is the best thing, to me (more info is on a BBC Ask Bruce! page).

I'd love to be able to download for free BBC programmes (and indeed other channels) for a week after they've been aired. Time shifting with a vengeance, indeed - but it uses digital rights management or DRM software, so a week is the limit. Never mind a week, I think a month would be even better, to cater for being away on holidays etc.

[Updated 29 December 2005:] There was a very limited trial earlier, which they're extending soon beginning September 2005. I've signed up to be considered (if you want to sign up too, email try registering for it) so I hope they'll include me - if they do I'll of course report back. (The software by Kontiki is here if anyone's interested, but installing it won't do you much good without the official user/password you get if/when you are accepted for the trial - I tried! But if you must have a go, to uninstall it use the Control Panel (on XP), it's under the heading "Secure Delivery" or similar no longer available except to triallists. To uninstall it, use the Control Panel (on XP) under the heading "BBC IMP"). [Edited 13 November: I got onto the extended trial, see my preliminary review of BBC iMP aka MyBBCPlayer, and also some BBC iMP tips and tricks for more info on BBC's iMP.]

This is the absolutely the right way to approach convergence, with TV/radio broadcasting being made available via the Net (and conversely the Net being used to complement TV and radio programmes, which the BBC and others do very well.) Now if only they'll hurry it all up!!

UPDATE: free download of BBC TV programmes, for a limited period after initial broadcast, should be with us in May or June 2007 via the new BBC iPlayer - with UK-based computers, anyway. See this post.

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