BBC announces that it may NOT deliver Linux/Mac/older Windows version of iPlayer -- sorry, 25% of UK, no iPlayer for you!

Glyn sez,
The BBC have announced that a cross-platform streamed version of its on-demand service the iPlayer would be available by the end of the year.

Is this 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.

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."

The Open Rights Group has more details and commentary.

Link (Thanks, Glyn!)

See also:
Cory's column on DRM's Potemkin Village for the Guardian
BBC Trustees agree to let BBC infect Britain with DRM
BBC's online media now requires MSFT player, DRM
BBC picketed over use of Microsoft DRM
BBC recruits Microsoft DRM exec
Regulators order BBC Trust to meet with open source consortium over DRM player


  1. Not being able to iPlay on OSX I tried it through Parallels running XP. It don’t work right. So I just go the easy route and torrent those few programs I enjoy. I am disappointed in the BBC and wonder why they feel DRM is protective in any way.

  2. This headline is very misleading — swapping the words “may never” in Ashley’s quote for “will never”.

    It completely changes the thrust of the story – implying an active desire NOT to support other OSs, rather than a desire that to support them that may not be realised.

    Disappointing reportage.

  3. Ashley Highfield. Director of New Media & Technology is quoted as saying:

    “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

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

    “We are not ruling it out. But we are not committing to it at this stage.”

    Also, from the article:

    “The BBC has also confirmed that users of Apple Mac and Linux machines will be able to use its TV catch-up service from the end of the year.

    The broadcaster has signed a deal with Adobe to provide Flash video for the whole of the BBC’s video services, including a streaming version of its iPlayer.”

    so, how is this “BBC announces that it will NEVER deliver Linux/Mac/older Windows version of iPlayer” ?

    hd t n tm rspct fr y Mr. Dctrw, bt ftr y stt “S ths dys, by mst f my dbks n CD nd rp thm, thn gv wy th dscs”, clm Drs Lssng s Cndn nd nvr fx yr rrr, nd vlt nthr wrtrs cpyrght, hv nn. gss sprdng FD s smthng dn frm bth sds ths dys…

  4. Why does the RSS feed have a title that says “will NEVER deliver” whilst the story on the website it links to has a title that says ‘may NOT deliver’?

    Did the story of the title get altered after lots of comments that ‘will NEVER deliver’ is blatantly inaccurate?

  5. Two things:

    1/ sticking to Flash is not very good either as of today Flash is still completely proprietary closed Adobe, and given their history in badly supporting other platform than Windows (and even less properly supporting Linux), it is not encouraging.
    (yes I’m aware of the attempt to write Free alternative, thank you).

    2/ but sticking to Flash thinking that you can’t save the movie is really being naive :-) Actually even for Windows users it is likely to be a better solution to save the programme on your hard-drive for delayed viewing.

    Not that the CBC behave better here.

  6. The article is misleading in saying Apple hasn’t licensed MS’ technology for use on Macs. Apple doesn’t have to! MS can release its own software layer that people can download, just like Apple makes Quicktime available for Windows. In fact, they can make it a browser plugin. Or is Silverlight just vaporware?

  7. Cory, that title was very misleading, something that even the BBC kitty-name-fakers wouldn’t get away with.

    Now I would love it if they went DRM free on all their content. The stuff they broadcast everyday is amazing, let alone what sits ready digitized in their archive.

    However, the BBC don’t exclusively own all the content they broadcast, as such cannot do this without the independents (and all artists) consent. Which lets be honest isn’t forthcoming without a massive bill.

    Plus you never seem to mention how making content DRM free would impact the BBC’s DVD or international sales. Something that you may think is wrong considering the license fee, however, pays for about 1/3rd of the BBC. A DRM free option will certainly cannibalize this to some unknown extent. This is a massive concern for the BBC, (even more apt considering sweeping job cuts are expected to be announced tomorrow).

    So less of this sort of post, perhaps a nice critique looking at how perhaps the BBC would survive on the net DRM free?

    Plus this post suggests that the flash version or iPlayer will be worse than the downloadable version … something which I question considering we haven’t seen the light of day of the later.

  8. And how about the Netflix player for OSX and Linux? I hate viewing movies through virtual windows on my Linux machine. Joost needs OSX PPC and Linux support as well.

    The problem with streaming video is there is so much dependence on the memory architecture of a computer that it is hard to port these things. Along with codec support and DRM restrictions. There has to be a better way to do streaming video and get it to the masses.

  9. The BBC transmits DRM-free content at the speed of light, terrestrial and satellite, all day long, and has refused to add DRM to its sat feed, despite a year-long rightsholder boycott of its services. Why should the Internet be worse than sat/terrestrial? Aren’t net-using license payers entitled to the same service?

  10. The grumble mentions “the full, downloadable iPlayer may never be made available to those who do not use the latest versions of Windows”.

    It’s not actually available to people using the latest version of Windows. Vista support is apparently coming “sometime soon”.

  11. There’s a lot of FUD here: the original article actually said that there may not be a version of iPlayer for OS X or Linux but that they are investigating a Flash based player a la YouTube.

    The issue of rights is a difficult one for the BBC. There is a common assumption that once the BBC produces content, it somehow belongs in the public domain. This isn’t true. The BBC has to pay rights fees, repeat fees and residuals to artists. Many artists’ contracts are designed so that whenever a programme that they appear in is broadcast, they are paid a fee. This has caused problems in the digital broadcasting system in the UK where networks that are supported by advertising revenue have attempted to increase their income by launching ‘+1’ stations, broadcasting the same programming an hour later. ITV, the national commercial broadcaster, ran into serious issues over repeat fees when it launched ‘+1′ versions of its digital stations, which mostly broadcast reruns of programmes from the network’s archive: they didn’t realise that some performers’ contracts required a residual for *every* transmission of a programme, so one episode of ‘Maigret’ on ITV2 counted as one payment, and the same episode broadcast an hour later counted as another.
    A programme played out over the Internet therefore counts as a broadcast. There may be agreements in place that limit the residuals payable on a programme transmitted in this way, but I believe that the way in which iPlayer works provides a kind of workaround in that it is based on torrenting technology so it isn’t being streamed in a one to one way, so the process can be regarded as ‘broadcast’. That the technology has been limited to the Windows platform is a combination of the BBC’s technical philosophy, which is essentially a combination of ‘not invented here’, which limits the use of FOSS and ‘it costs a lot of money, so it must be good’, which sustains the use of RealAudio for streaming services, and indeed, Microsoft software for iPlayer.
    The rights issue is a problem that has to be fixed, and probably will be. The BBC is in something of a cleft stick because its charter doesn’t allow it to charge UK citizens for its programming – after all, we pay the license fee, so it can’t really put programmes on iTunes like the US networks.
    There may be a blanket Internet agreement on the way, but until then it has to track and manage what it delivers so it can pay for what it delivers. There are pretty obvious solutions available but again, they would have to be developed in house or bought in, and neither are viable in the timescales available. So as always the compromise is unattractive to everyone.

  12. “hd t n tm rspct fr y Mr. Dctrw, bt ftr y stt “S ths dys, by mst f my dbks n CD nd rp thm, thn gv wy th dscs”, clm Drs Lssng s Cndn nd nvr fx yr rrr, nd vlt nthr wrtrs cpyrght, hv nn. gss sprdng FD s smthng dn frm bth sds ths dys…”

    y dvwl yr wn qt bt rppng CDs? y dvwl pst jst bcs sd hd lst rspct fr y? wld t b s hrd t jst ddrss th pnts tht lstd s thngs tht hv dsppntd m n th pst fw wks? ts rlly sd. njyd ths st. hv rd jst bt vrythng y hv pblshd. th wy y hv ctd n th pst fw wks hs bn smngly gnst vrythng y prfss t blv n. f y cnt tk th tm t ctlly rd rtcls bfr y wrt hdlns r g bck nd nswr cncrns n psts, myb y shld jst fcs n yr thr ndvrs. thnk t ths pnt y r hrtng yr cs mr thn y r hlpng t.

  13. RacerX, can you please reach up and switch on the lightbulb over your head? Thank you. Now: Cory didn’t do that. I did.

    Why did I do it? Because there and here, what you’re saying about Cory is an ad hominem attack. You want to talk about the BBC and Linux? Fine. Complaints about the headline are within bounds. “I am disappointed in you and have lost respect for you” is over the line.

  14. Expressing disappointment in someone is out of bounds? Are loyalty oaths going to be required next?

    I wouldn’t call that disemvowelling “censorship”, but it IS awfully petty — and being petty on someone else’s behalf, to boot.

  15. Calton: Yes. It was out of bounds.

    Loyalty oaths will not be required. Simple civility is enough. Posting interesting comments is a definite plus.

    And yes, I’m acting on behalf of others. That’s why I’m a moderator and they’re bloggers. Feel free to reach up and find your own light switch.

  16. “RacerX, can you please reach up and switch on the lightbulb over your head? ”

    thats not an ad hominem attack?

    I think rather than reach for the light bulb, I will reach for the “Organize Bookmarks” menu option and remove boingboing.

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