BBC downloads to be restricted to Windows

The BBC is considering changing its “listen again” service to include Digital Rights Management so that it can only be used by people using a recent version of Windows:

The only system that currently provides this security is Windows Media 10 and above. Further, the only comprehensively deployed operating system that currently supports  Windows Media Player 10 and above is the Windows XP operating system. As a result of these DRM requirements the proposed BBC iPlayer download manager element therefore requires Windows Media Player 10 and Windows XP.

This means that those of us who use an Apple Mac, Linux or an older version of Windows will not be able to listen to programmes stored on the BBC site. 

This will screw me up: I use Linux to download programmes from the BBC site and convert them to MP3 files so that I can listen to them on my MP3 player on my way to work.

If you think the BBC’s proposals are a bad idea, please respond to the consultation saying so.

Hat tip: Glyn Moody

3 thoughts on “BBC downloads to be restricted to Windows”

  1. Owen: thanks for highlighting this.

    The documentation is unclear to me about how far audio downloads would be affected by the Microsoft/DRM issue. It clearly arises for 7-day TV catch up, which is what the reference in your blog comes from. I fully agree that the BBC shouldn’t offer this service on a Microsoft-only basis; the Trust proposals is to give the Executive 24 months to sort this out, which seems much too leisurely.

    For non-DRM protected audio content, the proposals don’t seem to restrict the service to downloading through the BBC iPlayer (“Note that Non-DRM audio downloads will also be accessible through podcasting portals such as iTunes”).

    What I’m unclear about is the DRM-protected audio. The documentation says that the BBC’s iPlayer will incorporate all the exisitng BBC video and audio players. The non-DRM downloads “would be restricted to those programmes where the rights holders agree that non-rights protected distribution is appropriate.” Presumably DRM-protected audio would have to be distributed through iPlayer and would fall foul of the Microsoft issue you highlight. But I’m not sure how much audio content would in practice be caught by this.


  2. Thanks Alex. 

    At the moment there is a lot of content which is available to listen again, but not to download as a podcast, the content of which is owned by the BBC.   An example is the Westminster Hour on Sunday evening.  At the moment this programme can be streamed to RealPlayer in the subsequent seven days.  As things stand, I download those programmes and convert them to MP3 for my own portable audio player.

    It is not clear to me whether the BBC intends that this (large) category content will in future be podcast without DRM (eg through iTunes) or whether this will form part of the DRM-protected distribution.  My impression is the latter.   Clearly the BBC is going to have to put DRM onto content on which the BBC does not have the copyright (eg the Top 40).  But as I read the consultation, they also intend to put DRM protection on their own programmes (that is, the ones that are not currently podcast).

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