Thursday, May 08, 2008

BBC's In Our Time - still available - for now!

[See a significant update below my post. The shows are still available, for now, on the primary IOT site.]

Increasingly, episodes of the BBC's wonderful series, In Our Time, are unavailable after the initial broadcast. Another candle against the Dark has popped off.

Instead of a (sigh) Real Audio link to the episode, the archives show:

BBC - BBC Radio 4 Programmes - In Our Time, The Dissolution of the Monasteries

Sorry, this episode is not available online.

One episode was recently unavailable by podcast as well, due to "copyright reasons". Otherwise the podcast distribution is continuing.

There's been no mention of this policy change in Melvyn Bragg's newsletters, and I can't find any discussion on the BBC website. A Guardian article from last December on the "iPlayer" implementation is the only clue I found to these changes. It may be that the BBC is allowing streaming distribution for UK net traffic, and disallowing it outside the UK. The Guardian article implies that streaming, like podcast distribution, may now be limited to 1 week after initial broadcast.

It seems that what the BBC giveth, the BBC taketh. I think they're making the same sad mistake as the American Academy of Family Practice. The meager revenues they may gain are vastly outweighed by the loss of goodwill, karma, and progress to a better world.

I hope the BBC changes course, at the very least they really ought to have given us more of an explanation. Perhaps they'll start offering episodes through iTunes and like for $1 a pop, DRMd of course. Alas, more likely they'll show up for Microsoft's Zune's alone. Either way, I won't be able to play them back from my car stereo's thumb drive.

I've never had much interest in P2P file sharing, but the pull of the Dark Side grows ever stronger. Damn you, DRM.

Update 4/9/08

Leigh Aspin, the Radio 4 website editor, kindly left a comment ...

I’m the editor of the Radio 4 website and I’m pleased to say that there has been no change of policy – we continue to archive every episode of In Our Time on the Radio 4 website.

The page you’re linking to is on the BBC Programmes BETA site, which doesn’t yet carry programmes beyond 7 days after transmission. In the meantime, please access past In Our Time programmes from http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_current.shtml

A rights issue meant that we couldn’t offer one episode via the podcast feed, as you point out. But we don’t envisage this being a regular occurrence.

Regards, Leigh
I am very happy to hear this news. I am a dedicated IOT fan of course, so the missing shows in the context of the BBC's iPlayer strategy had put me in a bleak mood. I'm particularly pleased to hear that the restricted podcast even is unlikely to be repeated.

Leigh doesn't actually tell us that this 7 day policy will go away once the beta site is live. For now the shows are streaming from the original site, but my recollection is there's much debate within the BBC about monetizing their intellectual property -- especially when it's distributed outside of the UK. The discussion is focusing on video properties, but it's easy for audio works to be caught up in the fight.

From a business perspective it seems perfectly reasonable for non-taxpayers to have limited access to BBC work. Reliable bandwidth and servers are not cheap, and IOT may have more foreign than UK listeners now. From a foreign policy perspective, of course, it would be a rotten move.

I'm hoping that lovers of civilization and Britain's foreign ministry will conspire to keep IOT available to a world audience indefinitely.

7 comments:

alanbooker said...

Strange isn’t it when the purpose of containment, DRM, turns on its head and makes the option that should not be one, P2P, the most attractive!

I must admit that I have lost track of what is or isn’t. There are so many other rubs in my life that the DRM fiasco has me backing off from even trying to negotiate the challenges!

Regards, Alan

Leigh Aspin said...

I’m the editor of the Radio 4 website and I’m pleased to say that there has been no change of policy – we continue to archive every episode of In Our Time on the Radio 4 website.

The page you’re linking to is on the BBC Programmes BETA site, which doesn’t yet carry programmes beyond 7 days after transmission. In the meantime, please access past In Our Time programmes from http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_current.shtml

A rights issue meant that we couldn’t offer one episode via the podcast feed, as you point out. But we don’t envisage this being a regular occurrence.

Regards, Leigh

John Gordon said...

Thanks Leigh, I've updated my original post to include your comment.

Peony said...

But, then, isit still impossible to download and listen to an old show on an ipod? It is so frustrating being stuck here at the computer to listen... any advice?

John Gordon said...

You can use s/w to capture the stream, I've a post on using Audio Hijack to do that on a Mac:

http://tech.kateva.org/2006/06/putting-in-our-times-on-your-ipod_16.html

Your best bet though is to ask around and find someone with a library. i have over a hundred I think.

Peony said...

John, do you have the one on Carthage
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hdd5x

Or history of history?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_20090122.shtml

I downloaded Switch to try and convert mpeg to mp3-- no luck, though... :(

Peony said...

Hi there again,

I sent another comment and then followed up with an email... am guessing you are out for the evening. If you happened to have this one, in mp3 (for my ipod) I would be so grateful!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_20090212.shtml