CBC posts Dr Who episodes (streams only, geo-crippled, boo!)

Ted sez, "The CBC has put episodes of the current Doctor Who series online streamed in flash. It's a pretty major step as it means not Windows Media, and the only restrictions are geofencing. Eps go online the day after broadcast, and will be there for a 4-week period to let people catch up on the series. Too bad it wasn't 13 weeks to cover the whole series, but it's still a giant leap forward."

Also too bad that:

* It's streaming, not download: the CBC doesn't stop you recording the TV shows they transmit, but they stop you recording the shows they webcast. Why should one be different from the other?

* I can't see it, because I'm using an IP address outside of Canada. The CBC broadcasts all its programming to all antennas, north and south of the US border.

It's a bummer to consider a future in which broadcasts — which we can all see and record — are replaced with geo-locked, streaming crippleware netcasts. Hard to understand how that serves the public interest, something that the CBC, a tax-supported institution, is required to do.

I spoke with a friend at the CBC, and he was very sympathetic to my concerns. The BBC — producers of Dr Who — insisted on the region-locking and streaming only, as well as the four-week window (significantly, this is a much better deal than the BBC gives to Britons, who are required by law to pay a hefty annual fee to support the BBC — they only get seven days to see old episodes, and have to use a DRM-crippled product called iPlayer that only runs on Windows).

The bottom line seems to be that the CBC can't afford to buy the right to just put downloads of Dr Who online from the BBC, even if the BBC could be convinced to sell them.

But at the end of the day, both the CBC and the BBC are public service organizations, charged with making material of public value. They are supported through tax (the CBC) and license fees (the BBC), and it's tawdry for them to devote all this energy to locking away their media from one another. The BBC turns over a paltry five percent of its annual budget through licensing deals like this one — imagine how much benefit the Beeb could get by saying to the CBC, "Give us all your programs and you can have all of ours." Is that enormous vault of programming worth more than the shows that a fraction of five percent of the BBC's budget can produce?

This is how Internet exchanges work — ISPs don't generally charge each other for the bits they exchange: Earthlink doesn't charge Sprint for the bits it sends to Earthlink customers, and Sprint doesn't charge Earthlink for the bits its users send to Earthlink customers. They're "peers," so they just send bits back and forth freely.

Virtually every country in the world has a state-funded public service broadcaster, all of them charged with the same mission: promote the public interest through programs with public value. They're all on the same side — why isn't their media? It's time for public service broadcasters to peer with one another — to create an interlibrary loan system for public media.

All that said: top marks to the first person to demonstrate a working, reliable solution for watching and recording the CBC Dr Who episodes from anywhere in the world.


(Thanks, Ted!)