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BBC Quietly Announces Linux/Mac iPlayer

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the no-downloads-for-you dept.

Television 218

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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Equivalent? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008455)

Do 90-95% of British TV viewers actually own Sony brand TVs?

Re:Equivalent? (3, Interesting)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008549)

If they did would it fair to close down the market and say "Sorry, you can buy Sony if you want to use the service that you've already paid for"? Don't forget that the BBC is publicly funded, and supporting a commercial monopoly is not in its charter.

The bandwidth question has cropped up again. Given that they are not talking about access to their entire catalogue, but a small (1 week?) window of it - why don't the ISPs put a proxy on their networks so that it is only downloaded once, and the majority of the bandwidth is internal?

Re:Equivalent? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009171)

I wasn't saying whether it was right or wrong, just pushing my finger through the big gaping hole in the analogy. But, hypothetically, if NTSC (US style) TV sets were a small percentage of the market (5-10%) and PAL (European style) sets were the other 90%, I don't think it would be unreasonable for BBC to devote more resources to the PAL viewers. I say that as I write this on a Mac.

Re:Equivalent? (2, Interesting)

threaded (89367) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009031)

I watch British TV, not in Britain though. I refuse point blank to have any Sony products in the house. So do quite a few people I know. Too many pieces of intelligent electronics that may get infected if attached you see. So if forced to watch TV on a Sony brand product I think I'd probably just stop watching TV altogether.

Help please - need instructions (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008461)

Hi,

I recently purchased some niggers but they did not come with any documentation. Is there some kind of instruction manual around?

Thanks,

CmdrTaco

Re:Help please - need instructions (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008675)

that's the thing about Niggers, you give them instructions not the other way around.

WTF??? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008495)

wtf is this all about? They already offer rtsp feeds of various programs, downloadable with mplayer -dumpstream.

Re:WTF??? (2, Informative)

mike2R (721965) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008593)

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.

Re:WTF??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008983)

i think you have answered your own 'wtf is this about'. my guess is that 98% of the population does not use "rtsp feeds of various programs, downloadable with mplayer -dumpstream."

Re:WTF??? (1)

radarsat1 (786772) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009641)

Of course, the answer to this Flash-based player is the same: determine what utility you can use to download the video file, and just do it.
Fortunately, Flash even works over http, so no rtsp nonsense to deal with. Once you figure out how to parse the URL, as people have done with YouTube and various other Flash-based services, you just use wget or some Firefox extension. Bets on how long before its added to DownloadHelper?

I suppose they'll still block non-UK access, but I suppose that could be circumvented through a proxy. (Unless they are able to block them?)

Who cares? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008539)

I don't give a flying fuck about about the BBC. Talk about a socialist waste.

flash (5, Informative)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (4, Interesting)

pzs (857406) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#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]

Once collected, the money is then passed to the BBC via the Appropriation Act(s) where MPs vote the amounts paid to the UK's public services. During the current Charter review process, concerns were raised as to the cost of collection (£152m for 2005-2006).

Re:flash (2, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008877)

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:flash (2, Insightful)

mykdavies (1369) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009059)

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.

Re:flash (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009339)

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.

Re:flash (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009495)

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 (4, Interesting)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009507)

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] .

Re:flash (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009525)

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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009601)

Funny how those allied with the current British government swear blind the BBC is biased against the government and those opposed to the current British government swear blind that they are for the government. And by funny I mean stupid.

Re:flash (4, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008861)

Funny, Flash only works for me when it is installed too...

Obviously you meant that flash is "nearly ubiquitous" - but there are machines where it is not installed or blocked or not allowed (some corporates)

Re:flash (3, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008933)

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.

Re:flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009455)

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)

It's hardly wily to install a Firefox Extension and then click on a button when you want to download.

Re:flash (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008719)

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 (3, Interesting)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008761)

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:flash (2, Insightful)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009049)

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.

Moon-on-a-stick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009669)


Here you go, thought you might like this too whilst you're at it.

Re:flash (2, Funny)

Thwomp (773873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008781)

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.

Re:flash (1)

sqldr (838964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009653)

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.

Good balance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009733)

This is a good balance which should make everyone happy, even though (sadly) the group complaining is impossible to please.

Also, it's not like "only a show for Sony televisions", it's actually the opposite. Of desktop users accessing the internet, about 2.5% use OS X, and about 1.5% use Lunix: these stats aren't entirely accurate, so I erred on the side of being generous. So that's a total of 4% of all computer users on the planet.

Does it really make good business sense to spend much money on thta 4%? Especially since NOTHING you can do for that 4% will be appreciated or good enough? No, of course it doesn't.

The Windows Media codec is the best on the market, and Microsoft's applications make it easy on the organization implimenting their solution. So why should the BBC be hampered in their efforts, just to serve the 4% of the market which has an irrational grudge against an operating system, of all things? It's an OS, it's not a lifestyle... despite what Apple and IBM's marketting campaigns, and Stallman/Slashdot's FUD campaign, might have you believing.

Streaming = bad news? (4, Informative)

mike2R (721965) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Streaming = bad news? (1)

gaspyy (514539) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009485)

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.

Version that has fewer features is unacceptable (3, Insightful)

Shisha (145964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008559)

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:Version that has fewer features is unacceptable (2, Interesting)

speaker of the truth (1112181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008613)

What about people who don't own computers connected to the internet? Can they get their license fee lower?

Re:Version that has fewer features is unacceptable (2, Informative)

Shisha (145964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008649)

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.

Re:Version that has fewer features is unacceptable (0, Flamebait)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008667)

>Can they get their license fee lower?
No but they can use any of the other dozens of services on offer and stop whining like a little girl.

Re:Version that has fewer features is unacceptable (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009025)

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:Version that has fewer features is unacceptable (1, Funny)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008745)

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 Flash iPlayer for them too.

Finally I'll turn to my trusty four tuner GBPVR box and watch whatever BBC content I want, whenever I want for as long as I want without worrying about whatever DRM crap-du-jour they're trying to foist on me. A Freeview stick costs about 15 quid so if you're that keen to watch BBC material on your PC why not invest in one of those instead.

Re:Version that has fewer features is unacceptable (1)

tapi_wrc (1175233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009375)

I still wonder why people think that the BBC 'HAS' to provide the player for different platforms. Tthey are required to as part of the approval to create the service, but that's different to being morally obliged to. In the 1930s there were two platforms for television - Baird 240-line transmission and EMI electronic scannning. If slashdot were around back then, then auntie would have been told that they were not supporting all the public and that, by choosing the EMI system, they were supporting one manufacturer over another (which is a very bad thing, apparently).

Re:Version that has fewer features is unacceptable (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009403)

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 people. Once its done, no doubt a full version will appear for Linux, then Mac. You just have to be patient.

I think the absolute best thing the BBC can do is release a gcc-compilable module (or just a closed source binary and API) and let the F/OSS community build their own players on top of it.

In other news (4, Informative)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008573)

The BBC has been required [bbc.co.uk] to make a Linux/Mac version of the IPlayer that allows for downloads.

Re:In other news (1)

Wite_Noiz (887188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008959)

I was about to post the same.
It was hardly quiet, if you read the correct article.

Re:In other news (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009435)

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.

Why the "i" (1)

Zephida (1016417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008583)

I'm happy the BBC is attempting to get it shows out to as many users as possible..it shows vision and a willingness to embrace the new media & technologies, unlike the some media dinosaurs - but I do have to question (Okay, slightly offtopic), why does it have to be called the

iPlayer

Surely with all the tax money they collect (and yes the license fee is a tax), they could have come up with a more original name for thier online digital video player.

Re:Why the "i" (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008627)

>Surely with all the tax money they collect (and yes the license fee is a tax)
Given that today they are announcing swinging cuts in service and 2000 job losses dur to lack of funds, I'm happy they saved a bit to spend n important things, not names for some bit of software.

Re:Why the "i" (2, Funny)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009195)

Surely with all the tax money they collect (and yes the license fee is a tax), they could have come up with a more original name for thier online digital video player.
Yes, some things truly are better left to the private sector. The government should have set up a contract bid for companies to come up with original names for this player.

Or maybe they secretly did, and Apple got the contract?

Stream only? (4, Insightful)

Alsee (515537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008607)

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".

-

Re:Stream only? (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008687)

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

An earlier poster said you already can dump the stream with mplayer.

That said, the program is streaming only. If you hack the program so that it isn't, you have made it so it will actually save stuff, but the original program would still be streaming only.

Re:Stream only? (1)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009073)

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 hope to control what I do with the data once it reaches my end purely by technical means, and I don't argue with that bit.)

Re:Stream only? (2, Insightful)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009097)

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.

Good news? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008619)

This isn't good news. This is the BBC attempting to skirt around its responsibilities to the British public because someone somewhere in the higher ranks has aligned the corporation with Microsoft. Someone at the top has made a lot of money out of this. This along with the BBC losing its objectivity, dumbing down its programming, pandering to the lowest common denominator like commercial TV and ripping off viewers with its phone ins. Something at the BBC has gone rotten.

Hopefully the BBC's watchdog will slap them down in the upcoming 6 monthly review. If iPlayer is not going to be *properly* cross-platform then the BBC shouldn't be doing it. Especially when they want to offload 2000 employees because of a supposed lack of money.

Open Rights Group Commentary (3, Informative)

rimberg (133307) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008625)

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 the goal of creating public service content, owned by the public and available to all.

Update: The BBC Trust have hit back at the Future Media and Technology team, reiterating their condition that the entire service must be platform neutral and adding "we would expect BBC management to come back to us if they are planning any changes to iPlayer." Read the full report here [bbc.co.uk] .

Re:Open Rights Group Commentary (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008741)

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.

Re:Open Rights Group Commentary (1)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009159)

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, for high definition television.

A download on the other hand can take as long as necessary, and can be carried out at times when the networks are less busy, such as overnight. Many UK ISPs with metered plans or usage caps allow unmetered access at off-peak times.

Quietly?? (3, Funny)

violet16 (700870) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:Quietly?? (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009227)

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.

Re:Quietly?? (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009421)

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.

Re:Quietly?? (1)

verbalcontract (909922) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009509)

That's it! I can't take it any more! Every second Slashdot story 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?/blockquote In other news, Microsoft announced a patch to Outlook 2007 with their eyes darting back and forth and scary music playing in the background.

Years ago, the Beeb was worth viewing (1)

xjlm (1073928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008643)

Now they're pretty much a corporate whore, just like most every other mainstream media outlet. If I wanted to waste my time with crap like that, I'd just watch teevee.

No it doesn't (1)

ribuck (943217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008657)

"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.

Re:No it doesn't (1)

drjzzz (150299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009053)

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

And what about the morning news shows, for heaven's sake?

Where is my OpenVMS player?!?! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21008685)

Those bastards at the BBC are completely ignoring the OpenVMS market. I have a number of VAX systems in my parent's basement that I keep running with OpenVMS being the OS. To get any sort of music or video, the media giants of the industry are colluding to force me to use a more popular OS such as the wildly successful Theo de Radtt's "OpenBSD". Well, I won't have any of that sort of secret monopoly collusionary bloatware in my house. I have 8MB of memory and I'm running OpenVMS just fine and I can listen to .AU format files! Yay! Long live free media!

Re:Where is my OpenVMS player?!?! (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008857)

You may joke but the fact is that if you're a BBC license player & Linux user like I am, then as far as I'm concerned my license money is as good as that of any Windows user and the BBC have a duty, as a publicly funded organisation, to support me.

Incidentally, there are a number of open media streaming and download platforms supported by both Windows & Linux so the BBC should, from the outset, have looked at this from a totally platform neutral and Open perspective.

Re:Where is my OpenVMS player?!?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009433)

While I strongly agree that the BBC ought to support the needs of Linux/Mac users, I have to point out that your being a license payer doesn't mean they have to.

At the moment, the license is only tied to the TV (and possibly still to the radio?). So long as they aren't denying you access to televisual services, they have no duty to you in terms of other media so long as it meets the approval of their governing body. Your money might be going on those services, but you're not directly buying them, no contract exists stipulating the BBC must provide them.

In the past, people have argued that they should pay less since they don't watch certain programmes or listen to certain shows and each time this argument fails on the principle that the BBC are offering a service and can support minority interests which otherwise would have no outlet using money collected from the majority. This is arguably a similar situation, where the BBC is trying to push technological boundaries and make it's service more widely accessible. Obviously in this case the governing body have decided that it is wrong to not support Linux/Mac users, but had that decision not been made the BBC would have had no duty to do so.

YouTube? (1)

pbhj (607776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008715)

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 torrents I'd have thought given the time-limited availability and the mass appeal.

Re:YouTube? (1)

tapi_wrc (1175233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009503)

They've been trialling multicasting over the past year or two with several ISPs so the serving is offloaded to the ISPs local infrastructure. http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/08/18/2257257 [slashdot.org] for info on plans to extend it. Talking of infrastructure, there are worries from a lot of ISPs that the iPlayer will bring their networks to a grinding halt http://tech.blorge.com/Structure:%20/2007/08/13/uk-isps-to-limit-access-to-bbcs-iplayer-streaming-content/ [blorge.com] with plans to charge for usage.

It's not cost per person, it's a different market (-1, Troll)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008721)

Dear BBC. I know many people, especially people who dumped Windows a while ago, who don't own a TV either (or if they do, shun standard TV for the simple reason that they want to decide when to watch what, not wait for some program and then sit through 10 minutes of ads for 5 minutes of program).

In other words, until you open your service to Linux and/or Mac, you will not reach those people at all. If anything, creating this service means that you will open yourself a new market. People who have neither Windows nor TV (yes, they exist. And their number grows). And it's like always, the first one in the market will have the strongest muscle once it becomes mainstream.

So I'd hurry. I'm fairly sure other TV networks are finding out that more and more people use their TV (provided there's one existing at all) as the display frontend for their content, stored on a linux box.

Re:It's not cost per person, it's a different mark (2, Informative)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008779)

>then sit through 10 minutes of ads for 5 minutes of program
The BBC don't have ads... that's their biggest plus point IMHO, especially given that ITV et al have said they are going to increase the amount of advertising per hour to something similar to US TV and we all know how shite that is.

Re:It's not cost per person, it's a different mark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009101)

You do realise that there are no adverts on the BBC, right?

Re:It's not cost per person, it's a different mark (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009545)

It's not in the interests of the BBC to specifically target people who have no television. Indeed, it probably goes against their remit to do so (I remember the furore some time ago about the BBC providing online services outside the license-paying countries).

While it makes sense for commercial entities to take the lead in this area (since this is undoubtedly the way the world is moving and the early movers stand to make the most financial gains), the same does not apply to the BBC. As the Beeb is not ad-sponsored, it doesn't need to be so proactive in protecting its market position. It has a guaranteed revenue source to generate new programmes with less of a reliance on those programmes generating increased audiences, so it can afford somewhat to be a late-comer to this new distribution channel.

The BBC Trust have just said streaming not enough (3, Informative)

ChrisRed (948482) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

A bit of an exaggeration, wouldn't you say? (0)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008769)

complaints about the fact it was Windows-only the equivalent of current BBC broadcasts only being watchable on, say, a Sony television. Yeah, if 99% of televisions were Sony. Not denigrating the move, but it's a lousy metaphor.

Re:A bit of an exaggeration, wouldn't you say? (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009377)

complaints about the fact it was Windows-only the equivalent of current BBC broadcasts only being watchable on, say, a Sony television. Yeah, if 99% of televisions were Sony.

I may be taking a leap here, but I think it would be tantamount to the BBC only releasing stuff on Beta. Oh, wait....

My favorite parts are:

An e-petition signed by more than 16,000 people led to a government statement backing the Trust's requirement for platform neutrality.

So apparently, it only takes ~16,000 people to make the BBC Trust listen. Meanwhile, I've had a petition with ~28,000 signatures for Macromedia to release a Shockwave player for Linux, and have gotten no responses from Macromedia/Adobe.

Here's my other favorite quote:
 

He said: "If it's a genuine move towards interoperability, consumer choice and open standards, then certainly we welcome it.


"If, however, it's a cynical ploy by the BBC's Future Media and Technology team to avoid being taken to the European Competition authorities for promoting Microsoft's abusive monopoly, then certainly we are against it."

Why all the Fuss? (1, Funny)

Junior Samples (550792) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008821)

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.

Re:Why all the Fuss? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009349)

Top Gear is awesome!

Yet another proprietary or streaming player (2)

rtkluttz (244325) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008841)

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.

Only Sony TV? (0)

Maclir (33773) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008871)

I had a lot of trouble with the comment the equivalent of current BBC broadcasts only being watchable on, say, a Sony television.. There are standards specifying how broadcast television signals are transmitted; how the sound signal is encoded, the offset from vision to sound signals, line and frame rates, and all of that. These standards are open, anyone can design and build a television receiver to those standards, and if their design and manufacturing skills are good enough, then their TV will satisfactorily receive the signal.

A potentially good article was spoiled by a crap metaphor.

Re:Only Sony TV? (2, Insightful)

mattpalmer1086 (707360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009115)

Whoosh!

That was the whole point of the Sony TV metaphor, poor as it was. The iPlayer is not based on open standards, it's software/protocol is locked in to Windows only. Rather like a hypothetical situation where you could only receive certain TV programmes on a TV made by a single manufacturer...

Re:Only Sony TV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009157)

So you say that the metaphor was bad because anyone
can implement the iPlayer?

How would, say, a Linux developer implement the
patent-encumbered proprietary DRM which is required
to view the MSBBC iPlayer content?

"Use Windows" would be the shill's reply -- what is yours?

Also for Mobiles (1)

stiggle (649614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008911)

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)

Dont the BBC own all this great content they made? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008919)

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.

Re:Dont the BBC own all this great content they ma (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009065)

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.

Re:Dont the BBC own all this great content they ma (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009183)

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.

Re:Dont the BBC own all this great content they ma (1)

Zephida (1016417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009513)

You must not forget all the money the BBC makes on flogging DVD boxsets off all it shows. When is the last did you watched a decent BBC show that didn't try and flog an accopaning book, t-shirt, DVD Boxset, and Coffee Mug?

Can't very well get rid of that little cash cow now can they?

Move DRM to hardware? (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21008989)

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 the PCI bus. You feed it a stream of Windows DRM-encumbered data, and it spits back decrypted data. The interfaces to the outside world can be fully documented; "place data on the low-order bits of D-bus and assert IORQ*" or "an interrupt will be generated when data is ready to read from the output buffer" sort of stuff, which would allow anyone to implement a driver for any machine architecture and OS. The only mystery then is what is going on inside the silicon.

This should work with any processor (assuming enough I/O bandwidth), take some of the load off the CPU and be much more secure since the computer's main processor is not being expected to run unaudited code.

Re:Move DRM to hardware? (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009071)

To be "useful" (in the sense that present DRM is useful) it would pretty much have to be integrated into the video path. If it were just a PCI device then there would be nothing to stop someone from writing a program that would use it to decrypt a video and write the result to a file instead of the video card.

Now, it certainly could be done in hardware, but it would have to go in the video card, not as an extra peripheral.

Re:Move DRM to hardware? (1)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009385)

What's to stop me making something with an AGP connector, that pretends it's a video card (but in reality, is just writing the picture data to some on-board memory) and sticking that into a Windows PC where software DRM is being used?

Terrible analogy (1)

BillyS (1175225) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009061)

As anologies go this is seriously inaccurate, "the equivalent of current BBC broadcasts only being watchable on, say, a Sony television". More correctly it should read along the lines of "the equivalent of current BBC broadcasts NOT being watchable on, say, a Hanns-G televisions. Not wishing to cover old ground but Windows users are by far the majority of those likely to attempt to access this content.

One Word Error (1)

verloren (523497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009087)

"It comes down to cost per person"

Actually it comes down to cost per license payer - that's a big difference.

Re:One Word Error (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009257)

>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 (2, Insightful)

m2943 (1140797) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

The equivalent of... (1)

OSgod (323974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009201)

"only being able to watch on a SONY" isn't exactly right...

The more accurate analogy is that of transportation. You can have a wagon, a train or a car. Your car can be made by Dell, HP, etc. A wagon can ride on rodes but slowly. A train can't really run on roads -- it needs special tracks (enabling software). Legacy browsers are wagons. Windows PC's are cars no matter who makes them (and their is a wide variety of manufacturers very much like cars). Trains are the Macs and Uni and Lini of the world.

Its about all we can expect (3, Interesting)

jocknerd (29758) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Its about all we can expect (1)

tapi_wrc (1175233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009715)

so, you wanted the bbc to sign up with a single distributer and you would force everyone to use their download service/software with all it's associated extras, rather than providing a clean system? (why is forcing people to use iTunes any better than providing a simple player/downloader? )

not quietly (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009229)

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 little perspective is needed here I think.

Unnecessarily Hype Filled Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21009269)

"the equivalent of current BBC broadcasts only being watchable on, say, a Sony television"

Not really. While I'm in full support of Linux. all of us Linux users have to think about this from a cost-per-customer business model. The reality is, there are a lot of people who don't own Sony televisions. In contrast the last statistics I heard, 96.09% of desktop systems worldwide run Windows of some flavor. With Apple only having 2.47% and Linux with 0.36%. Now, while the numbers may be off slightly even being able to reach 90% of your customer base through Windows is better market penetration than most companies ever hope to achieve. While I think it's great they will release a Flash version as well, statements like the Sony one above are poor reporting and simple fanboy hype.

Flame On.

cost per person (3, Insightful)

aristolochene (997556) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Cost?? (1)

FridayBob (619244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21009751)

'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 other examples of public services that have perfectly good reasons to lock their own subscribers into expensive proprietary solutions, such as... um...
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