This is the BBC.
August 24, 2003 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Dyke to open up BBC archive. Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, has announced plans to give the public full access to all the corporation's programme archives. Wow! The BBC has archives stretching back to when the Earth was still cooling. And now it will all be available online and for free. [Via Slashdot]
posted by PenDevil (36 comments total)
That's great - there's a lot of BBC radio programming I would love to get my hands on.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:23 AM on August 24, 2003

This is a pretty amazing idea, just for the educational and research possibilities. Go BBC. My only concern is what video/audio format they will have everything encoded.
posted by Darke at 10:35 AM on August 24, 2003

Knowing the Beeb it will all be in Real Player format, but that doesn't stop this being fantastic news.
posted by chill at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2003

If it is in Realplayer format, I will die a little bit inside. But didn't BBC Radio do internet streams in Ogg Vorbis a few years back? Or am I mistaken?
posted by Darke at 10:43 AM on August 24, 2003

Dr. Whooooo! (Hey!) Dr. Who!
posted by turbodog at 10:47 AM on August 24, 2003

I love Aunty.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 10:49 AM on August 24, 2003

I hate RealNetworks.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 10:50 AM on August 24, 2003

Very amazing news! Really EVERY television programme? Unbelievable. I will be a busy, busy boy.
posted by jonson at 10:56 AM on August 24, 2003

the impact of this is ridculously big. I've no idea how they are dealing with license issues for a lot of the material, but still...this is a big black eye for the gits in the mpaa and riaa, public domain as it should be.

they're going to get so hammered though. be nice if they use some sort of distributed method to share it, bittorrent would be a good way.

but, wow. so many good programs.
posted by dorian at 11:07 AM on August 24, 2003

this will be great, but the article is really short on specifics...if they're generating revenue with shows on BBC America (only available on digital cable in my area) and other channels worldwide, and by selling other shows like Eastenders to public television here in america (I watch Eastenders religiously, but it's at least 2 yrs behind), how can they just release all of it? Will the quality be that bad that no one will choose the free net versions over the cable? And for shows that have been on for decades (Eastenders, other soaps, various news programs, etc), will they still release past eps if the show's still on the air?
posted by amberglow at 11:10 AM on August 24, 2003

And let's not forget all the shows that are being released on video and DVD. Red Dwarf, Dr WHO, Blakes 7, et al. All are being released on DVD or are about to be released on DVD. Will these shows be available in their entirety to download, and if so what will the impact (if any) be on the commercially available material?
posted by kaemaril at 11:15 AM on August 24, 2003

that too! : >
posted by amberglow at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2003

Semi-topical: Is there any way of playing Real files using un-Real software on Windows?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 11:18 AM on August 24, 2003

There's the Tara plugin for winamp. I've not tried it though.
posted by viama at 11:28 AM on August 24, 2003

I'm thinking this is only for the television-license paying people. Otherwise, I'd bet those brits will be really pissed about merkins getting free shit with the TV fees over there.
posted by stavrogin at 11:29 AM on August 24, 2003

Pretty_Generic - try the Real Alternative codec and Media Player Classic, both available from the Kazaa Lite site (which is down for me at the moment?).
posted by mcsweetie at 11:29 AM on August 24, 2003

um, I doubt you will be able to get stuff like red dwarf and dr who. These are, after all, the archives which are being opened up, and things which are being made commercially avaliable arent really in the archives. Methinks this will be much like the american memory project.
posted by outsider at 11:53 AM on August 24, 2003

I doubt anything they can sell off will be present in the archives - but theres still a heck of a lot of items that aren't available commercially that will be made available. I'd imagine that it would also be UK only for direct distribution - probably with deals with the major ISPs for ADSL and Cable over here - after all, the Brits are the ones that pay the license fees.

I want Have I Got News For You. Especially that Boris ep :)

And will they have the Test Matches? Hmm..
posted by Mossy at 11:57 AM on August 24, 2003

Pretty_Generic, there's talk of a port of mplayer to windows, though I'm not sure how far along it is, or what kind of hoops would need jumping through to use it. Mplayer plays damned near everything, including real media, quicktime, windows media..
Reading /etc/mplayer/codecs.conf: 50 audio & 136 video codecs

It's too bad Ogg Theora isn't far enough along to hope the BBC would be using it. (Yes, they did have Ogg Vorbis streams a while back)
posted by duckstab at 11:59 AM on August 24, 2003

I'm too cynical about how American media companies are compensated to think this would ever have much effect on us here in the States. Perhaps the Public Broadcasting organization would do this, but it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the commerical nets would follow suit.

It's also worth noting that Dyke never talks about programming that's specifically for entertainment. Yes, I know the BBC broadcasts everything, but unlike some of you, I just assumed he was talking about newscasts and the rebroadcasting of public events, not Absolutely Fabulous and Changing Rooms... Maybe it's just my All-American Commcercial upbringing that made me automatically exclude anything that could potentially be charged for.
posted by JollyWanker at 12:14 PM on August 24, 2003

Concerning the likelihood of pissed-off people paying the license fees, it seems pretty clear to me from the article that this isn't a consideration. ("In particular, it will be about how public money can't be combined with new digital technologies to transform everyone's lives.") The American attitude may very well be "Well, who pays for those online cheapskates!" but the BBC is decidedly more unique in its approach.

If this truly does go down, I'm not sure how the BBC will cover the inevitable bandwidth charges. But I think the idea here is to have some streaming version of the programs available to everyone. This would tie in with Dyke's goal of fulfilling the charter principle of "universality".

Here's a bit of spectulation: Dyke's mentality may very well be that the majority of television viewers (whether BBC or BBC America) will still watch them on the format it was created on and will still prefer to see them on a "real" television screen (thus, keeping the revenue of DVDs coming in). Thus, it may be worth the risk to unleash noncommercial uses of the programs out to the public. Because at the moment, they're quite familiar with the current medium (being transformed from analog to digital and developing parallel to computers).
posted by ed at 12:19 PM on August 24, 2003

You know this may very well be an end run around a lack of funding for transferring archives to digital. The best way of keeping old content readable is to keep it live on a big hard disk in a couple of different locations. The last thing the BBC wants to run in to is NASA's 7 track tape problem.

Imagine asking a politician to fund transferring all that old tape to disk just to keep it readable. Now imagine asking a politician to fund "making it available to the public". The first is like spending money on computer security, no one wants to until it's too late. The second has _Legacy_ written all over it.
posted by Mitheral at 12:36 PM on August 24, 2003

The "I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again" radio series would be great to hear again. I've never seen recordings on sale except through the Beeb's own website.
posted by gimonca at 12:36 PM on August 24, 2003

I've no idea how they are dealing with license issues for a lot of the material, but still...

Basically, if my contacts are right, they're dealing by not dealing. It's been an ongoing debate in the BBC, with the BBCi people basically saying, 'look, it'll cost you more to implement a DRM policy that limits access to UK licence-payers than you'll make from selling licences and policing licence violations.' And after, what, three or four years, they seem to be winning that battle. Opening up the archives is a way to define the BBC as the 'unique' broadcaster it claims to be; it also hammers back at those money-grubbing bastards like Sky who say that if the BBC wants to compete commercially, it should have its charter revised to level the playing field.

Lessig's Creative Commons project perhaps provided the biggest push. He gave a presentation to the Beeb last year, saying 'release everything you can on a licence that forbids commercial reuse'. It'll be trickier with more recent stuff, because a lot of it is made by independent production companies who retain copyright, or live broadcasts with 'first use' only, but there's over half a century of material which the BBC has full copyright over, which ought to be made public, and sticking it on digital channels is only a baby step. Dispersal will help prevent broadcasts from being lost in the archives -- too many great programmes were literally taped over in the 70s -- and... god, the mind boggles. All those old talks on the Third Programme, for starters.

So, what I think Dyke is basically saying, in the context of this ongoing debate, is 'what the hell, let's do something that underlines the BBC as a public service and justifies the licence fee into the next century.' And there are enough people working there who'll be happy to put it in place.

Maybe it's just my All-American Commcercial upbringing that made me automatically exclude anything that could potentially be charged for.

What's the point, though? It's already been paid for. The BBC isn't a for-profit enterprise; any profit is a pleasant afterthought. An online archive isn't really going to challenge foreign broadcast rights, or even people who want box-set DVDs. And how that will make some on the American right scream in pain. I'm smiling even to think of Rupert Murdoch scrabbling for his heart pills.
posted by riviera at 12:39 PM on August 24, 2003

"I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again" along with all the BBC's radio archive [including Dr Who, H2G2, Blakes 7, I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue, Dad's Army etc. etc.] is frequently broadcast on BBC Radio 7
posted by Blue Stone at 12:44 PM on August 24, 2003

I want Have I Got News For You. Especially that Boris ep

Hopefully in unedited form. Hours (& hours) of fun!
posted by Celery at 2:02 PM on August 24, 2003

I never run out of good things to say about BBC. Along with projects like MIT's Open CourseWare, this is a big step in fulfulling all those 'promises of the Internet' we used to hear so much about.
posted by troybob at 3:11 PM on August 24, 2003

Already BBC leads the way in letting us listen to many shows on our own schedule. I wouldn't miss Brain of Britain or The News Quiz any week it is on, and wish that all the shows were archived like Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time.

For years, I considered the BBC World Service to be my local station. With Total Recorder to time shift the shows that aren't archived, I’m already in radio heaven. If they release more archives I won’t have time left for MeFi.
posted by Geo at 8:37 PM on August 24, 2003

It seems that current BBC Broadband is only available to people in the UK.

"This is broadband content and is currently only available to UK residents to who have a broadband connection with one of the providers listed on the left."

Let's hope this is something people in other countries can access as well!
posted by Stuart_R at 8:56 PM on August 24, 2003

Mitheral: the BBC is already transferring archive material from 1" tape to digital format.
posted by Lleyam at 4:27 AM on August 25, 2003

Not that anyone but a Korean would care, but all the major Korean networks have been doing this archival VOD thing, with 24/7 realtime streams of free-to-air broadcasts thrown in, for years.

Hell, I don't even care. But it did help keep my wife sane when we first moved to Australia back in '99 and she was undergoing a bit of the old culture shock.

Nonetheless, I look forward to the BBC getting into the same thing. Big time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:55 AM on August 25, 2003

stuart, we're able to access the various radio channels now outside the uk, and the jubilee festivities were open to the whole world...i've never encountered a block on anything the bbc has online, from games to audio to video...

wouldn't the BBC have to open it to all kinds of connections anywhere for it to truly be public? and many if not most folks in the UK are still on dialup, no?
posted by amberglow at 5:06 AM on August 25, 2003

I agree, the Boris episode of NIGNFY was one of the funniest things I've ever seen... how can he hold down 2 decent jobs?!
posted by wibbler at 5:18 AM on August 25, 2003

whoops, HIGNFY
posted by wibbler at 5:18 AM on August 25, 2003

This says everything I wanted to say, but better. Especially this:

The biggest drain on the BBC's servers and routers will obviously be Dr. Who, Red Dwarf and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. So I would suggest Mr. Dyke chooses not to make these available to the Creative Archive.

posted by riviera at 12:39 PM on August 25, 2003

I hope this doesn't dampen anyones expectations, but the BBC is famous for some particularly inept decisions as regards what material should be archived and for how long.

Did you know that they recorded the 2.30 from Doncaster over the lunar landing broadcast?

Also missing presumed lost, over 100 episodes of Doctor Who, the last four episodes of the Quatermass Experiment and almost the entire output of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore's Not Only But Also.
posted by davehat at 1:59 AM on August 26, 2003

« Older Peepshow: a dozen British illustrators show their...   |   Asian Historical Architecture Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments