Thursday, April 12, 2007

BBC 4 Reith Lectures 2007: Sachs and the modern world - by mp3, podcast and rss

The BBC Radio 4 - Reith Lectures 2007, featuring Jonathon Sachs on the challenges of the modern world, have begun. Yes, it's no longer sufficient to avidly follow Melvyn Bragg's weekly Radio 4 program In Our Time, the intellectual-geek must also listen to the current and past Reith Lectures. [1]

This year, the BBC has made the lecture available by download (MP3 - only for one week after each lecture!), Podcast (iTunes) and RSS feed [2] . There's a one-click subscription option for iTunes users that's hidden away [2]. As an experiment I'm now subscribed to the feed via Bloglines and iTunes. Note the feed is for Radio 4 Choice, not for this specific lecture. When I subscribed I received both Lecture 1 (yesterday) and an option to get an program on the Falklands war.

Here are the lectures:
Lecture 1: Bursting at the Seams
Lecture 2: Science for Survival
Lecture 3: The Dethronement of the North Atlantic
Lecture 4: The Extremely Poor and the Extremely Worried
Lecture 5: A New Politics for a New Age
The BBC 4 is a cruel example of globalization at its best and most cruel. Best because there's no comparison between, for example, In Our Time, and anything available on NPR. Cruel, because I used to be a regular NPR listener, and I pretty much ignore them now. We still contribute, but how long will we keep doing that?


[1] A modern car radio helps.
[2] Some odd things happen in IE and FF when one clicks on the Podcast link. It's an XML document for the Radio 4 RSS feed, and depending on the browser and browser settings it may display a web page, ask you to add a feed to your feed reader, or tell you you've already subscribed to the feed! (This led me to change my FF settings so FF always displays a feed page rather than auto-subscribes). In addition IE 6 displays a quite different page than FF, only IE shows the explicit one-click subscription to iTunes option:
Such are the joys of the bleeding edge. You may be able to find the feed in iTunes, this worked for me:
  1. open itunes
  2. under the Advanced menu, select 'Subscribe to Podcast'
  3. copy and paste the above itpc url.
Update 6/9/07: The mp3s are no longer available from the BBC, but you may be able to find black market versions online. More honestly, the BBC transcripts are now associated with the lecture links above.

Also, Variety has a profile of Sachs. It's a persuasive picture of an obsessive workaholic, humorless, driven, brilliant, relentless and probably often cruel and ruthless. He doesn't sound like someone you'd want to share a beer, or even a building, with. Perhaps this makes him the right man for the ultimate challenge -- the eradication of extreme poverty.

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