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BBC Quietly Announces Linux/Mac iPlayer 218

Posted by kdawson
from the no-downloads-for-you dept.
Keir Thomas writes "When the BBC released its new iPlayer watch-on-demand service, there were many complaints about the fact it was Windows-only — the equivalent of current BBC broadcasts only being watchable on, say, a Sony television. The good news is that the BBC has announced a Flash-based player for Linux and Mac due by the end of the year. (The announcement is buried half way down the page.) The bad news is that it will probably only offer streaming, and not the ability to download programs, like the Windows client has. Quote: 'It comes down to cost per person and reach at the end of the day.'"
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BBC Quietly Announces Linux/Mac iPlayer

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  • WTF??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:04AM (#21008495)
    wtf is this all about? They already offer rtsp feeds of various programs, downloadable with mplayer -dumpstream.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mike2R (721965)
      Yes you can stream a number of BBC programs - mainly news and current affairs stuff that I imagine the BBC own full rights to. iPlayer offers other programs.
      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:01AM (#21009765)

        iPlayer offers other programs.

        But at a price. I went to try it out the other day, having inadvertently deleted a program from my PVR before watching it. As always, I scanned the small print before installing new software, and this is what I found:

        Assuming that I understand the agreement correctly and that it is legal, by installing the current version of iPlayer you agree to:

        • join a third-party P2P network and pay for any amount of bandwidth required to use that network
        • accept all liability for any material sent over that network using your computer, though the BBC offer you no guarantee that any of it will be legal
        • allow the BBC to monitor your use of the P2P network, and anything else they put in a policy on a web page somewhere, which they can change without you knowing about it
        • allow the BBC to automatically install updates to their iPlayer software on your computer, without your knowledge or consent, with no restriction on what they may do
        • allow the BBC's software to automatically change your network configuration in ways that are unspecified but that you are explicitly warned may break it
        • not hold the BBC responsible for any damage done to your system etc. etc. etc. including via the above-mentioned updates and network configuration changes
        • allow the BBC to terminate the agreement at any time, but
        • have no right to terminate it yourself.

        In other words, you agree to them doing anything they want on your machine and your network, specifically including using it as a distribution hub for transmitting potentially illegal content to and from unknown users while being monitored, at your expense, without any responsibility on their side and with full liability for any illegal activity resting on you.

        Now, the BBC is usually a pretty decent organisation. They don't get things right all the time, but on the whole, I think they do a good job, and I don't think they're the kind of organisation that would deliberately try to screw people. But tell me, what person in their right mind would agree to the terms for using the current iPlayer software, with today's legal and file-sharing cultures?

        If the new version is streaming, Flash-based, and otherwise no-questions-asked, then as far as I'm concerned, it will be a huge improvement for Windows users as well... not least, because you won't be opening yourself up to a wrecked system, unlimited bandwidth charges, and an expensive lawsuit, just for clicking "OK". I might even be able to use it, which as a licence fee payer would be nice.

        • >I don't think they're the kind of organisation that would deliberately try to screw people
          Ask a photographer. On their websites they actively try to get people to send in photos of various things but in the small print it says that anything you send becomes theirs and they can make as much money from it as they want and never pay you a penny.
          • There are far more direct problems caused when a big BBC show comes into conflict with people's everyday lives. For example, while Strictly Come Dancing (that's Dancing with the Stars to our friends across the pond) is good, clean, family fun and has done a lot to promote dancing and get rid of some misconceptions, behind the scenes it has also ruined professional careers, pushed up prices for dedicated students, and resulted in local dancing clubs being messed around whenever the production team got anywhe

        • by Ed Avis (5917)
          Most of those terms seem pretty reasonable, or if not reasonable then at least necessary. They use P2P to distribute the files, so clearly a user must agree to be part of the P2P network. Accepting 'all liability' seems a necessary safeguard to stop litigious people suing the BBC (it may not be enough); so is the standard stuff about not being responsible for damage to your system (read any software licence and see the parts about NO WARRANTY).

          Allowing automatic updates is a bit fishy. You should have a
          • If the iPlayer agreement is so objectionable, are you happy with the licence terms for the operating system you must use it on?

            I'm not happy with the licence agreements for most software these days, but whether any of those are enforceable is questionable under my country's law. (Currently there is an interesting and as-yet untested discrepancy between what national law says and the European directive which it was supposed to implement.) In any case, even the most absurd of EULAs for software I use doesn't make the kind of demands the iPlayer agreement does.

            Really, though, my point is that such dangerous, open-ended agreements

  • flash (Score:5, Informative)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:09AM (#21008543)
    its NOT "iPlayer for linux" - its flash based player for ANY OS that support flash.

    on one hand its not Linux client on the other hand its nice to see cross platform support. I know flash has its detractors but it is ubiquitous and it does work. On the plus side its not Silverlight.

    Congratulations to the BBC/Government for listening and well done on at least allowing us to use their portal to view content.

    • Re:flash (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pzs (857406) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:14AM (#21008595)

      One of the things I like about the BBC is they are constantly taking a pounding from people over their coverage. They address criticism [bbc.co.uk] very directly, and often. As a result, you can have some kind of faith that they're exercising due diligence and trying to get things right.

      The BBC isn't perfect and their coverage has been becoming a bit flashy and sensationalist recently. However, I trust them more than any other news source. I might even go so far as to say I trust them full stop, which must be a rarity in the modern media. If that's the only thing the license fee pays for, it might almost be worth it.

      Peter

      • Re:flash (Score:5, Informative)

        by apodyopsis (1048476) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:26AM (#21008713)
        Indeed.

        Unlike newspapers whose only income is from sales/advertising and have a desperate need to shunt embarrassing scoops and distorted news to sell copies. I think the newspapers have a hell of a lot to answer to.

        3/4 of their income comes from the License fee, it pays for material, presenters, infrastructure, shows - without it there would be no BBC. Morons whine and bitch about it, but don't seem to realize that without it there would be either a stealth tax of the same value or a paid subscription of some kind - and they'd bitch and whine even more if there was only a wall to look at. I have no problem with the license fee. If only people would stop and think thats 37p a day and the majority of them spend four hours a day infront of the damn thing. 9p an hour is quite reasonable really.

        For the interested, shamelessly cribbed from Wiki:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Television_licence [wikipedia.org]

        In the United Kingdom, the current annual cost for a colour television licence (as of 1st April 2007) is £135.50 (about 200) and £44 (about 65) for monochrome TV (black and white).[32] The licence fee is charged on a per household basis. Therefore addresses with more than one television receiver only require a single licence. (However, this does not apply to sub-let rooms within a property where a the tenant requires a licence alongside the Landlord.) A similar licence, mandated by the 1904 Wireless Telegraphy Act, used to exist for radios, but was abolished in 1971. Therefore, those who only listen to radio and do not use television receiving equipment to watch or record programmes as they are being shown on TV, no longer have to pay a licence fee.

        There are concessions for the elderly (free for over-75s[33]), the licence fee here being paid for by the government. Blind people get a 50% discount on their licence or completely free if only in possession of an audio only receiver. Residents of residential care homes (for the elderly and people with physical/mental disabilities) can apply for a special licence called the licence for Accommodation for Residential Care (ARC) which is £7.50 per year.

        The licence fee can be paid annually, monthly or quarterly by Direct Debit, or monthly or weekly with the Monthly Cash Plan or Cash Easy Entry cards, which were introduced in the mid 1990s for those with limited means or no bank account. The Monthly Cash Plan works on the same basis as the Cash Easy Entry scheme and has been designed so as not to discriminate against those that do not receive benefits.

        The licence fee represents approximately 75% of the BBC's income.[34] However, the UK's second public broadcaster, Channel 4, has claimed that it may need licence fee income if it is to continue with public broadcasting after the digital switch-over. To this end, on April 25, 2006, it was announced that Channel 4's digital switch-over bill would be paid for from the licence fee.[35] Some of S4C's programmes such as Pobol y Cwm and Newyddion, are made by BBC Wales and provided free of charge to S4C, meaning they are paid for by the licence fee.[citation needed]

        Collection is enforced by criminal law. People accused of licence evasion are tried in a magistrates court. Violators can be fined up to £1000. Prior to 1991, the collection and administration of the UK licence fee was the responsibility of the Home Office. Since 1991, the revenue has been collected on behalf of the Government by the BBC and paid into Government's Consolidated Fund. From 1991 the fee was collected more directly by the BBC and was called the TV Licensing Authority. Since then collection has been contracted out and is now collected and enforced by TV Licensing Ltd, which is operated by Capita. As a consequence of the change the force of law in enforcing the licence has weakened somewhat[citation needed]. By 1994, 57% of all female criminal convictions in Britain related to television licence evasion [36
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arivanov (12034)
        Just do not get me started there. The Beeb nowdays is a well behaved and obedient UK govt lapdog. Just read the coverage of this summer fires in Greece on the beeb and in other non-UK media and spot the differences. They are very interesting.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mykdavies (1369)
          Well here's one difference:

          "summer fires greece site:msnbc.com" - 18 hits
          "summer fires greece site:bbc.co.uk" - 1320 hits

          but I don't think that's the point you're making. Looking at the articles returned, I don't see anything odd about the BBC coverage; the key topics seem to be the same as other sites: lots of people and land affected, long-term environmental consequences, accusations of arson. I don't see what you're getting at.
          • by arivanov (12034)
            Write a small table and fill it up:

            Column 1. Firefighting aircraft present and actively fighting fires by country
            Column 2. Firefighting aircraft shown on BBC photos in the initial revision after posting
            Column 3. Firefighting aircraft shown and mentioned in the final article revision after the politically incorrect aircraft have been removed.

            Spot the difference.

            Nuff said. That is just one example. Or ask a greek.

            Plenty of others.
            • Can we say paranoid? Does it matter particularly who supplied what planes? More importantly, which news agencies numbers can we trust should one wish to carry out such a time wasting activity?
            • Re:flash (Score:5, Interesting)

              by NekoXP (67564) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @09:40AM (#21009507) Homepage
              I'm both curious and lazy.

              Make that table and fill it up for me. I can't find any articles that show any stand-out differences between coverage. I don't even know what we're supposed to be looking for. Basically you picked something that is hard to disprove your side, didn't you?

              I also can't find any Greeks who are particularly pissed off at the BBC coverage.

              The BBC is hardly a government lapdog; yes, they have strong opinions which sometimes are shared by those in power, but more likely than not, they differ just as strongly, and they can fuck things up for the government too - and sometimes, people even die because of it [wikipedia.org].
              • by mikael (484)
                Here's a better example:

                Google search "fire-fighting aircraft greece site:bbc.co.uk" - BBC national news
                Google search "firefighting aircraft greece site:bbc.co.uk" - BBC national news

                Adding [world] picks up the world news.

                So each country gets mentioned in this order - numbers in brackets indicate Google page ranking:

                Greece(1), Russia(1), Spain(4), Netherlands(4), Turkey(5), Italy(5), France(5), Norway(12), Israel(20)

                Google search "fire-fighting aircraft greece site:reuters.com"

                Greece(10, France(1), Germ
                • by NekoXP (67564)
                  Is this proof of government lapdogging or just a lack of fact checking on lazy news websites?

                  The number of BBC news articles that make it online with spelling mistakes, terrible grammar, "think of caption here" under an image just goes to show that it isn't exactly the New York Times. The web news team are probably all interns.

                  Reuters don't mention Russia, Spain, Netherlands, Turkey, Italy either, in your example. OMG???

                  It's hardly comprehensive evidence. Come up with a better one, better yet explain WHY a
                  • by mikael (484)
                    I was just trying to figure out what the original poster was trying to get at. I'll agree it's hardly a statistical fact - one news agency mentions a couple of countries once, and the other one doesn't.
                • by arivanov (12034)
                  By Country in order of deployment size (comments on BBC impeccable news reporting at the end):

                  H - helicopter, P firefighting plane, S - support aircraft

                  Russia 5+6+2H, 2P, one more P offered, but the Greek did not have a suitable airfield for it (Il76 based super waterbomber which went to Serbia instead allowing Serbs to offer their craft).
                  Serbia 6H, 1P
                  Austria 2H, 2P, 1S - IIRC a bit too late on the scene
                  France 4P
                  Switzerland 4H
                  Germany 3H
                  Israel 3H
                  Italy 3H
                  Netherlands 3H
                  Croatia - 2P
                  Romania 1P, 1H
                  Slov
            • by mykdavies (1369)
              If you have a genuine concern that you think we should be aware of, please let us know what it is. Otherwise it sounds like you're making the changing preferences of a photo-editor the basis for a paranoid conspiracy.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          They've been that way for a long time.
          During the 1980s miner's strike, they backed the government to the hilt. During the Battle of Orgreave [wikipedia.org], this extended to doctoring video footage shown on the 9 o'clock news to make it look like the miners had attacked the police, when in fact the opposite had happened. They later conceded a "mistake", but never apologised for having clearly doctored the story for political reasons.

          Only a fool trusts news from an outlet wholly owned by a corporation or a state.
    • Re:flash (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack (784150) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:25AM (#21008699)
      I'm not really concerned that this player doesn't allow you to download the content. After all, the content expires on windows after a while anyway. Current bcc streaming options include the option (on those I use) of resuming where you left off listening/watching beforehand. That's more than adequate for my needs.

      In fact I prefer the idea of a flash based web player. The problem with an installed player is that it only works if installed (obviously), so I can't just watch anywhere when I want.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually, most Flash-based content can, in fact, be downloaded. if you're wiley enough. There are even Firefox extensions that help you with this (i.e., VideoDownloader and so forth)

        And, of course, there are always ways to grab video streams when you're running on an OS that doesn't tie you down with digital restrictions mangling.

    • its NOT "iPlayer for linux" - its flash based player for ANY OS that support flash.

      Thank Chrom. I'm sick of them using RM.

      A bash quote seems appropriate.

      you have all the movies in .rm format, dont you?
      rm blows goats
      you don't want it
      yes i do
      it's the smallest format
      and if i want it different, i'll use a converter
      but i myself, PREFER rm
      you *PREFER* Rm?
      yes
      best visual quality i've seen yet
      okay, now this is some funny shit
      i hate avi and asf and mpg
      do you use a Mac?

    • Re:flash (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:30AM (#21008761) Homepage
      Flash is just as much a proprietary standard as Microsoft Windows (and more proprietary than Silverlight). Unless the BBC commits to using the subset of Flash that has been reimplemented by Gnash and other projects, I don't think it's a big step forward.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ray-auch (454705)
        The requirement on the BBC is to be cross-platform (platfrom neutral) not non-proprietary. This is a big step forward in meeting that requirement.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Ed Avis (5917)
          Yes, they should be platform neutral. That surely means not depending on a single proprietary platform such as Flash.
      • Unless the BBC commits to using the subset of Flash that has been reimplemented by Gnash and other projects, I don't think it's a big step forward.

        Before: only Windows users can view the programmes without paying any more for them.

        After: Windows, Mac, and Linux users (and anyone else with access to Flash) can view the programmes without paying any more for them.

        I'm sorry, but claiming that this isn't a big step forward on some sort of philosophical grounds is just cutting off your nose to spite your face.

      • Re:flash (Score:5, Insightful)

        by evilviper (135110) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @01:28PM (#21013045) Journal

        Flash is just as much a proprietary standard as Microsoft Windows (and more proprietary than Silverlight).

        The Flash video formats are well understood, and largely standard. I fail to see how Silverlight is any better.

        The original standard for Flash video (FLV) used a slightly modified h.263 video codec with MP3 audio, which was quickly reverse engineered by open source players. Flash 7 added On2's VP6 codec, which is proprietary, but at least there are dual suppliers you can license it from.

        Future versions of Flash (v.9+) will be switching to 100% standard video and audio formats, using h.264/AVC video, MP3 or AAC audio, and the MP4 container. You can just create a file in Quicktime with its default settings, and Flash (beta versions) will play it.

        My objection to Flash video is not the format, but that the source of the video is heavily obfusticated thanks to needing to embed an SWF player app, and only it knowing where the file is. Meanwhile, every non-Flash video is directly embedded in the web page so 3rd party plug-ins can handle them all... JUST NOT FLASH.

        If every web page author would simply provide an alternate way to access the video, a direct link to the FLV file (in addition to the embedded SWF player) I would have no objection to Flash. Instead, I just never watch videos on websites that use Flash.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Thwomp (773873) *

      its NOT "iPlayer for linux" - its flash based player for ANY OS that support flash.
      I really hope the player is compatible with the Wii's Opera browser. Assuming there is a full screen option I can watch the shows on my t.v! Yay.
    • by sqldr (838964)
      On the plus side its not Silverlight.

      I've been keeping mum on iplayer stuff, because I'm working with it, but there's no harm in me telling you that there is possibly a silverlight player in the works

      This is actually a good thing - silverlight is an open standard - flash isn't.
    • It's worth noting that the old iPlayer beta installer refused to install on my Windows x64.

      So frankly a flash-based player sounds good to me too.
  • by mike2R (721965) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:10AM (#21008557)

    The bad news is that it will probably only offer streaming

    You mean I can watch iPlayer content without that obnoxious bit of bandwidth stealing almost-malware Kontiki crap? Can I do this on Windows as well? Where do I sign up?

    Basically, once you install iPlayer it runs a filesharing service - kservice.exe - even after you've exited the program fully (by default it starts on system boot as well). A solution to this can be found here [shef.ac.uk] but I am really disapointed in the BBC for installing this crap on peoples machines.

    • by gaspyy (514539)

      Can I do this on Windows as well? Where do I sign up

      Of course you can. The title of the submission is misleading (in typical Slashdot fashion). It's not about a 'special' player for Apple/Linux. It's just a Flash-based player that works on Windows, MacOSX, Linux and probably a number of smart phones too.
  • by Shisha (145964) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:11AM (#21008559) Homepage
    I don't quite believe the BBC is serious. If the Linux / Mac player has fewer features than the Windows player, then maybe BBC will let people with only Mac / Linux computers at home to pay a lower license fee? Unless the versions are equal in terms of quality I will consider refusing to pay the fee in full. A bit of civil disobedience might be in order.

    (note to non-UK readers: every household with a TV has to pay BBC a compulsory license fee of about GBP 120 per year)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What about people who don't own computers connected to the internet? Can they get their license fee lower?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Shisha (145964)
        Good point. At the moment, if you don't own a TV you don't pay. But the license fee will be extended in a few years time to cover PC ownership. So once that happens you'd expect that you won't be forced to use a computer with an OS from a particular vendor, to get the most out of your fee.
        • by IBBoard (1128019)
          It already does cover computers - on the condition that they can receive terrestrial and related broadcast signals. I think it also covers mobile phones (although I don't know of a standard tuner card for a mobile!)

          Having said that I'd be somewhat worried if a computer without a tuner required a TV license. The only way I'd think it was reasonable was if it didn't increase the cost, since I already have to pay for my TV (which is mainly used for watching BBC News 24, QI and Formula 1!)
      • I hate sport, sitcoms, soaps and most of the other crap they insist on showing. Can I pay a lower license fee too please?

        About the only things I've enjoyed watching this year were ATOM and that absolute zero programme.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by montyzooooma (853414)

      Unless the versions are equal in terms of quality I will consider refusing to pay the fee in full. A bit of civil disobedience might be in order.

      You'll consider it and then just pay your license, having realised that your position is untenable. If I was the BBC I'd ask Apple if they want to partner on an equivalent DRM-infested system and if they don't then what else are they meant to do over and above the Flash-based system? Next I'd just double-check that the existing iPlayer can't be made to work under Wine and if it can't ask the Linux community to come up with a DRM-infested system of their own for the BBC to use. If they can't then it's the

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)
      Considering you have to pay the licence fee to receive broadcasts, and the player is a free adjunct to that; then yes, I think they should actually refund you every penny you spent on the free player that you cannot access.

      Lets just hope that the BBC doesn't make all its media player technology geeks redundant in the cutbacks that are going on! The cutbacks are a direct example of why they must offer content in the most cost effective way, and a player that runs on Windows does reach the vast majority of pe
  • In other news (Score:5, Informative)

    by oliverthered (187439) <{moc.liamtoh} {ta} {derehtrevilo}> on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:12AM (#21008573) Journal
    The BBC has been required [bbc.co.uk] to make a Linux/Mac version of the IPlayer that allows for downloads.
    • by jimicus (737525)
      And I assume there will be a version for Solaris, a version for Linux/sparc, Linux/ppc and Linux/arm, Free|Net|OpenBSD, ReactOS, Plan9 and RISC OS, yes?

      Or if not, they will at least release enough information about how they do the streaming that anyone who wishes may write their own.

  • Stream only? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alsee (515537) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:16AM (#21008607) Homepage
    There's no such thing as "sending a stream". Physically impossible.
    The only difference between a "download" and a "stream" is whether the person who receives the data choses to save it or not. As far as the sender goes, either the transmit the data or they don't send the data. There is no physical difference between sending a "stream" and sending a download. If the person watching the video tells his computer to save the data, then it is a download. Period end of story. They just have to have their software instructed to save the data.

    The idea that you can ever "send a stream"... that something can be "streaming only", it is a total fiction, physically impossible. Yet brain damaged idiots persist in ignoring or fighting the laws of physics. When you get in a battle with the laws of physics, you will always lose and the laws of physics will always win.

    Streaming only. Idiots. It'll take about 1.3 minutes after it goes online before people start saving the "stream".

    -
    • by iangoldby (552781)
      Actually streaming and downloading data is not always equivalent, even from the sender's point of view.

      With the BBC's RealPlayer streams, even if you have a high bandwidth connection, you can still only receive a stream at the stream's data rate. That means to download a 30 minute radio program that is offered via rtsp, you still have to wait 30 minutes as the data is sent at 45 kbps (or whatever) down your 4Mbps pipe.

      (Yes, I realise that the main thrust of the parent's contribution was that the BBC cannot
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CubicleView (910143)
      Not the entire story. Yes you can record a video "stream" and call it a "download", it'll give you the same file. But you can't download a video and start watching it before the download is complete. Streaming a file implies that the data is been sent in a specific order to allow for this.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        But you can't download a video and start watching it before the download is complete.

        Sure you can. Nearly every format will allow this, even if not intended. Even AVI. MOV/MP4 being a notable exception.

        Streaming a file implies that the data is been sent in a specific order to allow for this.

        No, actually that is usually called "progressive download" rather than streaming, though people certainly like to conflate the two for simplicity.

    • by Fred_A (10934)

      Streaming only. Idiots. It'll take about 1.3 minutes after it goes online before people start saving the "stream".
      Of course not. They thought of that already. See, the catch is that it's forbidden to save the stream.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      The only difference between a "download" and a "stream" is whether the person who receives the data choses to save it or not.

      The two terms overlap significantly, but they are most certainly different.

      A stream is generally a real-time, non-interactive broadcast of data, which does not allow you to download either faster or slower than the video should play. If you are on a fast connection, your line will sit largely idle. If you are on a slow connection, significant chunks of the data will have been skippe

  • by rimberg (133307) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:18AM (#21008625) Homepage

    As the Open Rights Group [openrightsgroup.org] reported yesterday

    BBC U-turn: Full iPlayer service may never be available to Mac and Linux Users

    Yesterday, the BBC announced that a cross-platform "streamed" version of its on-demand service the iPlayer would be available by the end of the year. According to this report [bbc.co.uk] from BBC News Online:

    "At the end of the year users of Windows, Mac or Linux machines will be able to watch streamed versions of their favourite TV programmes inside a web browser, as well as share the video with friends and embed programmes on their own websites, sites such as Facebook and blogs."

    If the idea sounds vaguely familiar, that's because back in March, when the BBC Trust put the iPlayer out for consultation, the Open Rights Group gently suggested that streaming was a far better short term solution to on-demand services than DRM-restricted market-distorting technologies that would serve to widen the digital divide. We observed that:

    "Such an approach is cheaper, lower risk, more inclusive (it works for example in libraries) and more flexible than the current BBC proposal. It may not appeal to consultants looking to make huge profits at public expense however, precisely because it is simple, clean and low-risk.

    "It does not, of itself, address the desire for users to obtain content in DRM-free downloadable form for any platform, but it provides a basis until the BBC is able to identify more open solutions for the download of content, preferably ones which do not depend upon DRM... The Open Rights Group considers it is quite possible that, as already is clearly happening in the music world, the use of DRM will soon be abandoned by the market itself."

    You can read our full submission to the BBC Trust here [openrightsgroup.org]. But enough of the I-told-you-so-s. Is yesterday's move good news for licence fee payers who do not use Windows? Well, not really. Although they will now be given online access to content their licence fee has helped pay for, there are still fundamental inequities between users on different platforms, and this still leaves the BBC deforming the market in favour of Microsoft DRM and Windows. People on Macs, Linux, PDAs and other handheld devices are still losing out on all the features that make the downloadable iPlayer different from, say, the kind of streaming that the BBC has done for years with the RadioPlayer.

    And that's not all. Ashley Highfield, director of Future Media and Technology at the BBC has now indicated that the full, downloadable iPlayer may never be made available to those who do not use the latest versions of Windows. When the iPlayer launched in June, Highfield was quoted as saying [bbc.co.uk]:

    "I am fundamentally committed to universality, to getting the BBC iPlayer to everyone in the UK who pays their licence fee."

    But yesterday, he admitted [bbc.co.uk]:

    "We need to look long and hard at whether we build a download service for Mac and Linux. It comes down to cost per person and reach at the end of the day."

    The BBC could avoid all this mess if it eschewed DRM and instead employed standard formats. The Open Rights Group believes that the BBC cannot be truly public service in the 21st century until it gives the British public access to the programmes that they have paid for without DRM or restriction. This is not a technology problem, but cuts to the heart of what the BBC is for and how it makes and commissions programming. ORG challenges the BBC and the BBC Trust to re-examine the BBC's commissioning and rights frameworks with th

    • In one of the news bbc pages linked from the open rights group story is the following quote:

      The BBC has said the problem in offering a cross-platform download service lies in protecting rights holders' content.

      Strange... I would have thought this would be much easier on linux. They can release almost any DRM scheme that they want and it will be broken in days - truly problem free. Even with the Vista hooks into the OS that they seem to be relying on they are only delaying the inevitable.

    • by iangoldby (552781)

      the Open Rights Group gently suggested that streaming was a far better short term solution to on-demand services than DRM-restricted market-distorting technologies

      There is a technical advantage to downloading rather than streaming. Streaming must happen in (more-or-less) real-time, which means that the quality of the audio/video is limited by the available bandwidth. Although a lot of people in the UK are now on broadband, typically speeds are not higher than 2 to 4 Mbps. That isn't enough, for example, fo

  • Quietly?? (Score:3, Funny)

    by violet16 (700870) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:19AM (#21008639)
    That's it! I can't take it any more! Every second Slashdot story [google.com] tries to make something seem more evil and mysterious by saying it's been done "quietly." Now you can be quiet even when you make an announcement?
    • It's funny that the first result from your search is "AppleWorks/ClarisWorks Dies Quietly", which is neither evil nor mysterious. It's just sad.
      • by LMacG (118321)
        Right, he clearly said every second story, so the first result doesn't count.

        HTH, HAND.
    • That's it! I can't take it any more! Every second Slashdot story [google.com] tries to make something seem more evil and mysterious by saying it's been done "quietly." Now you can be quiet even when you make an announcement?
      Hey, don't we all try to be quiet in public restrooms? No one wants to draw commentary from adjoining stalls. "Damn, boy! Sounds like someone needs more fiber in the diet!" It's only suspicious when you start rubbing the leg of the guy in the next stall over.
  • "It comes down to cost per person and reach at the end of the day."
    No it doesn't. If it came down to cost per person and reach, making unencumbered versions of their content available would achieve those goals cheaply and easily.

    Oh, wait a minute. Maybe the goal is maximum cost per person and minimum reach.
  • by pbhj (607776)
    So basically the Director General just got a youtube account and thought .. hot-dang-diggity I could just upload all our content here and it'll be just as good (!) as having local files.

    I'm assuming that they aren't going to attempt to stream full quality?

    Does the MS Windows iPlayer, the one they let the BBC use at the moment, have any torrent-ing ability to reduce the infrastructure demands of a few hundred thousand people downloading a giga-byte file from the BBC servers?

    It's a perfect application for tor
  • by ChrisRed (948482) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:29AM (#21008755)
    From http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7047381.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    The BBC must deliver an online TV catch-up service that lets users of all computers download programmes, the corporation's regulators have said.

    It comes after the BBC said a download service for Mac and Linux users was not 100% definite and would depend on cost.
    A spokesman for the BBC Trust said it had approved the iPlayer on the condition of "platform neutrality", including a download service.


    Good news, nice to see the trust appreciates the issues.
  • If you want unencumbered BBC programming, It's readily available for download via Bit Torrent or the news groups. Most of the popular shows are available. Watch it on any platform you like including your DVD player. This is a non-issue.
  • by rtkluttz (244325) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @08:36AM (#21008841) Homepage
    Why the hell do web sites not just provide downloads in standard formats.

    Embedded, streaming video in any format is evil. I want to view video in the player of my choice that I trust to be secure (for me), and to view it in that player at the size of my choice not the size you chose to embed it in the web page.

    Flash video sucks for exactly those reasons. Yea.. I know it can be downloaded too, but why have to bother with it? Just encode it in MPEG4 and offer it for download. Users will be much happier in the long run.

    Oh yea.. forgot, no one cares about the users.
  • The info is in the 3rd paragraph, not buried half way down the article.

    The BBC is also looking to being able to have users download content onto mobile devices over wifi, which is what the main jist of the article is about.

    For those of you outside the UK, you can still obtain the content if you redirect your initial registration & download initialisations through a UK based proxy. Then you can download the content from the USA (like I do when I'm working at the US office and not at home in the UK)
  • And, if they own it, cant they therefore just release it as downloadable MPEG video files? (that you can only download if you have a license)
    Last I checked, the BBC own Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Antiques Roadshow, a whole pile of sitcoms and dramas produced by the BBC over the years, a large archive of BBC produced news content not to mention all the BBC radio content.

    • The BBC used to do most stuff in house and own the rights etc. Since the government have been forcing them to work to a budget, plus with the need to move in to web, digital, HiDef and other media, they have slowly moved to getting most content from third parties to cut costs although it often says 'BBC' at the bottom. Said third parties licence it to BBC but may restrict it in various ways so just because it says BBC, doesn't mean it's available for everyone in every way.
      • The BBC used to do most stuff in house and own the rights etc

        Even in the days when they did own the rights to all their programmes there was still the need to pay performers residual fees, writers' royalties, etc. etc. If the BBC happened to produce that didn't automatically mean they could repeat it again and again without cost. Repeat fees were often agreed during production, and certainly the media upon which something could be broadcast were decided long before, so broadcasting pre-Internet shows on

    • I think the issue was that many of the BBC programs have international partners and investors, not just total BBC ownership, and these partners distribute the programming in their own countries. Apparently the partners were concerned about the profitability of the programs in their own country if they were too freely available in the UK, and thus are insisting the BBC use DRM.
  • The original iPlayer was Windows-only because of the DRM component, which depends for its "security" on the user not having access to the Source Code (which would show how to decrypt the data and put it to other uses beyond what the program was designed to do). Whereas Linux depends for its operation on the user having access to the Source Code (since programs must be compiled for the specific environment in which they will be executed).

    So why not move the DRM into hardware? Have a device which plugs into
  • "It comes down to cost per person"

    Actually it comes down to cost per license payer - that's a big difference.
    • >Actually it comes down to cost per license payer - that's a big difference.
      True but you have to draw a line somewhere and wherever it is, the next people down are going to whine. I'm damn angry my Atari ST isn't supported myself.
  • whatever (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m2943 (1140797) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @09:06AM (#21009123)
    The BBC seems a bit out of touch if they think that Flash isn't downloadable.

    In any case, it is hard to understand why they don't simply make the stuff available as MPEG4. But, hey, maybe their audience will do it for them.
  • by jocknerd (29758) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @09:14AM (#21009203)

    'It comes down to cost per person and reach at the end of the day.'


    No it doesn't. It comes down to you wanted DRM and went with Microsoft.
    Why they chose this option instead of going with podcasts on iTunes is beyond me.
  • Whatever the merits of the of the eventual player released for Linux (and Mac) this announcement hasn't been done quietly. Looking at news.bbc.co.uk the story is one of the big three stories in the technology section of the site - how much bigger do you want the annoucement to be?

    Like it or not this story is only of interest to a small number of people compared to the whole population. As such I think it is asking a bit much for it to get front page space on one of the most visited news sites on the web. A
  • cost per person (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aristolochene (997556) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @09:41AM (#21009511)
    I pay > £120 for my TV licence - and live in a major city. If I lived in the middle of nowhere I would receive the same TV shows for the same price. Yet the "cost per person" of delivering TV to remote ares is far higher.

    For that reason the "cost per person" argument doesn't wash. As a public service broadcaster with a good history of technological innovation the BBC *should* be providing the same services to people who don't want/can't afford to use windows.

  • 'It comes down to cost per person and reach at the end of the day.'

    Well, that goes without saying. After all, it's common knowledge that the development of this kind of software is horrendously expensive compared to the relatively miniscule costs of making and broadcasting television programs, or maintaining the BBC's website. Why, porting the Windows version of the iPlayer to Linux and OSX will most likely triple or quadruple the total cost of development and maintenance.

    Besides, there are plenty of

  • Define "Linux" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ozbird (127571) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @10:05AM (#21009805)
    "Linux" covers a multitude of sins... Which architectures exactly does the new Flash-based iPlayer support? (Given my own negative experiences with the amd64 Flash plug-in for Firefox, I suspect the answer is more or less just "x86".)
  • So, change it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    I find it disturbing that- although the most popular consumer linux distro is London-based Ubuntu- the player is targeted only at windows users.

    "We need to get the streaming service up and look at the ratio of consumption between the services and then we need to look long and hard at whether we build a download service for Mac and Linux..."

    So push up those numbers, people. If you're running Linux or mac, make sure to use that web-based iPlayer. Show the BBC that you're not a fringe market. Let your numbers be heard. I assure you they will pay attention to where their hits come from.

    It's funny that they switched from one closed source unaccessible technology to another. Flash is just barely linux comp

  • In my industry, we have a demographic sample representation of most households for which we maintain a list. We know what browser, OS, connection speed all of our panel is comprised of. Believe me, Mac use is barely a blip when you take a balanced sample. This has been true in the mac world for years, only popular PC games get ported, and usually some time later, Tivo supports the PC side of it's server software first (video came to Mac a long while later), SlingMedia developed their Mac player almost la

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