City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Free speech(es)

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‘Scuse the plugs, but it’s been a relatively big day at work today. That is, at BBC Radio & Music Interactive.

An iteration (v1.6 if you’re counting) of our Radio Player (radio on demand ‘console’), which should mean it works better in Macs, fixes a few major usability flaws (though not all, yet), offers better nav, and some stuff like "mail this show to a friend" kind of functionality. Well done to our fine Tech & Design team (take a bow: Dawn Budge, Jason Cowlam, Nat Darke, Claire Griffiths, Michael Koderisch, Bronwyn van der Merwe, Russell Miller, Kate Rogers, who’ve all worked on it at various stages) + the mighty Dan Taylor. Much much more to follow here, as we get cracking on version 2. You can get at it via BBC Radio.

But an equally big deal (’till v2) is that we managed to push through offering this year’s BBC Reith Lectures as DRM-free, mp3 downloads. They’ll be added to the site after each lecture (looks like first one will go up Thursday morning). This may not sound like a big deal to folks, but this ‘trial’ is something we haven’t managed to do before – so we’re hoping there’s a good reaction from punters. If the trial’s successful (in terms of downloads and public reaction) we hope to be able to do more of this stuff. This year’s lectures are by playwright Wole Soyinka, concerning "The Climate of Fear". Go have a listen, and let me/us know what you think. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

BBC Radio 4: Reith Lectures 2004

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18 responses to “Free speech(es)”

  1. Preoccupations Avatar

    BBC experiments with mp3

    From City of Sound, via Matt Jones: But an equally big deal … is that we managed to push through offering this year’s BBC Reith Lectures as DRM-free, mp3 downloads. They’ll be added to the site after each lecture (looks

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  2. Damian Avatar

    It looks nice and is easier to use – also great to have some nice new content to support it – currently enjoying some BBC7 AOD from earlier in the week which makes for a nice change!
    Well done!

    Like

  3. plasticbag.org Avatar

    BBC releases Reith Lectures online as MP3s

    For those of you who don’t know, basically my job at the moment is to be one-half of a rapid-prototyping and R&D unit with Matt Webb over at the part of the BBC that handles the interactive aspects of the…

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  4. ben hyde Avatar

    Dan,
    Just a couple of quick nit-picks about the redesign of the player and the MP3s (though it is about time downloadable audio was available – so props for that!)
    Couldn’t the player have a rewind button (back 5 mins would have been more useful than forward 15 – as you can already achieve this by simply clicking 3 times 😉 – going back is another story… As an aside, is there something built-in to try and stop people recording the stream? I often find my comp crashes whilst using the player (and recording).
    Re. the mp3 – you probably aren’t responsible for this, but it would seem sensible to state the size of the files, rather than just saying they are rather large…
    cheers, ben

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  5. Dan Avatar

    Thanks for the comments, guys.
    Ben – we’re not allowed to put in a rewind button due to copyright restrictions on shows containing music:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/audiohelp.shtml#fastforward
    And no, there’s nothing particularly built in to stop people recording the stream! It’s not to be encouraged of course. All those streamed broadcasts are still copyright BBC.
    As for the mp3 size being indicated, you’re absolutely right. It’s being fixed, should be up there imminently (there’s a lot more tweaks we’ll be doing on the site shortly, actually, as this new Reith site is just a re-badged version of last year’s. If the mp3 trial goes well, I hope we’ll be able to get back in there and do a fully reworked Reith site).
    We’ve actually put up a nicer sounding version too, which is a bit bigger (20mb). Wonder if people would prefer ‘better sounding’ or ‘quick to download’ on lectures like this? Obviously we’ll try to find the ideal trade-off, but let us know what you’d prefer and we’ll fix it.

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  6. Neil Ernst Avatar

    This is really cool. Are there any plans to make older lectures available as well? I’ve tried to access the 2003 edition but I get 404 errors.

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  7. Dan Avatar

    Thanks Neil! Much appreciated. The 2003 Reith(s) should be accessible as RealAudio streams and transcripts (but not mp3 – that’s just this year). Are you getting 404s from trying to URL hack an mp3 page under that directory? Let me know if you’re getting any 404s via links …
    If the trial’s a success (in terms of relative popularity, and public opinion – such as you’ve just offered) we may get the green light to get back in there and do more of this kind of thing i.e. potentially build a revamped Reith site with all the previous lectures as mp3 download, for instance. But I can’t promise anything as that’ll depend on the success of the trial.

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  8. great expectations Avatar

    MP3s on the BBC

    It’s been a really important week for R&Mi. As well as launching a new version of the radio player Radio 4 are offering this year’s Reith lectures as MP3s. There’s no pesky DRM and for me it represents a bold

    Like

  9. Dan Avatar

    Oh, and we’ll be sorting the ID3 tags too – the Reith site itself hasn’t really been redesigned for a bit, and we’ll improve it shortly – and similarly we’ll be constantly improving the mp3s which are being uploaded for the trial (possibly hi- and lo-versions, as well as coherent ID3 tags). Here’s what I’m suggesting for that metadata (as ever, not sure on the genre). Any thoughts?:
    Track:
    Lecture 1: The Changing Mask of Fear
    Artist:
    Wole Soyinka
    Album:
    BBC Radio 4: Reith Lectures 2004
    Genre:
    Spoken-word

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  10. ben hyde Avatar

    Thanks for the info Dan – i thought it must be something like that. Though it doesn’t seem to achieve much in terms of copyright protection, other than making it harder for people to use – you can always ‘rewind’ to the start and then fast-forward again…
    Whilst on the issue of control – I would like to be able to point to the ram file and play it in the standalone player rather than in the radioOnDemand page – is there a way to do this? Lots of other programmes are available as .ram links – and then you have ‘normal’ real player control…
    Ha – just noticed that I can rewind the archers but not charlie gillet – is the some sort of underhand beeb discrimination 😉 Oh the things one lets slip on comment forms.

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  11. Dan Avatar

    Hi Ben – no discrimination here … We simply can’t enable the rewind button on music shows due to our agreements with rights holders (and Charlie Gillet’s fine show is music, and The Archers isn’t). For the same reason we can’t open up the .ram files on music shows for you to open in the standalone player. Not exactly sophisticated, as you note, but that’s the current state-of-play …

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  12. Aaron Avatar

    Just learned of this via Boing Boing and you can count me in as excited. I’m half-blind so I like to find free and for-fee audible treats.
    MP3 and PDF formats are the best and it’s too bad the majority in power don’t trust clients to pay, at least sometimes, for ease of use.

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  13. Adam Langley Avatar

    RealPlayer streams are a pain, and MP3s are a step in the right direction.
    But transfering RealPlayer to OGG is fairly straight forward. dsproxy used to be a very good way to do it, but it seems to have dropped off the face of the net. So now I’ve written an LD_PRELOAD library to rip them.
    (Anyone interested is free to email me).

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  14. iWire Avatar

    Just what the BBC should be doing

    Where Google seems determined to do things that make us realise just how dangerous privately held corporations with ambitious schemes…

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  15. Tomski Avatar

    Give us two versions next time please – high quality (say 64kbps = 20Mb) and low quality (say 20kbs = 6Mb).
    It’s only a man’s voice, and if it were 6Mb I’d stand a chance of persuading my step mum to download it over her dialup connection.

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  16. Dan Avatar

    Cheers Tom … good stuff – will feed back that to the people producing the files.
    In other news, the Reith mp3s features in The Guardian, with m’colleague Chris Kimber (to whom much of the credit should go, as he did much of the negotiation around this):
    The Guardian: BBC dips toes into mp3 waters

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  17. Neil Avatar
    Neil

    Hi Dan,
    I still get 404 errors for the 2003 lectures. I don’t think I’m doing anything special, I go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2003/lectures.shtml and that generates the 404. Do I have to be in the UK to get these?

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  18. Dan Avatar

    Trackbacks sent to this post at the time (before I turned trackbacks off due to spam):


    » BBC experiments with mp3 from Preoccupations
    From City of Sound, via Matt Jones: But an equally big deal … is that we managed to push through offering this year’s BBC Reith Lectures as DRM-free, mp3 downloads. They’ll be added to the site after each lecture (looks [Read More]


    » BBC releases Reith Lectures online as MP3s from plasticbag.org
    For those of you who don’t know, basically my job at the moment is to be one-half of a rapid-prototyping and R&D unit with Matt Webb over at the part of the BBC that handles the interactive aspects of the… [Read More]


    » MP3s on the BBC from great expectations
    It’s been a really important week for R&Mi. As well as launching a new version of the radio player Radio 4 are offering this year’s Reith lectures as MP3s. There’s no pesky DRM and for me it represents a bold [Read More]


    » Just what the BBC should be doing from iWire
    Where Google seems determined to do things that make us realise just how dangerous privately held corporations with ambitious schemes… [Read More]

    Like

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