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Visualising radio - phase two

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Mark Friend Mark Friend | 15:53 UK time, Friday, 26 June 2009

vistrial.jpg

Over a third of people in the UK listen to digital radio each week and most of these devices have a screen. As a result, people increasingly expect visuals to supplement their listening. With that in mind, we're running a trial to bring a new level of interaction, including the faces and events of live radio, to the screens of your computer and your mobile.

This started at the beginning of June with 5Live's Simon Mayo show (5 Live's Interactive Editor Brett Spencer wrote about visualising Mayo here). At the start of this week the trial moved on to The Chris Moyles Show, Radio 1's Zane Lowe show, Switch, Radio 4's live science magazine show, Material World, and BBC 6Music's The Hub. The programmes in the trial represent a cross-section of BBC Radio output and target audiences in order to give us representative insights into how we can innovate and offer a much richer experience to those listening to their radio on a device with a screen, but without losing any quality to traditional radio output.

So how does this trial look to audiences? They will be able to go online to access the 'console' which will give them a whole new view of their favourite radio programme. The new 'console' will bring you live steaming video feeds from the studio, as well as giving you the opportunity to send messages into the programme, live DAB text, track listing information and even tweets from the Twittering classes. On other BBC blogs over the next week or two you'll be able to read about other aspects of the trial too, for instance, information about the video kit we're using (which is quite different from the tech you'll find in a TV studio).

It's important to note that this trial is not about turning radio into television. Early experience tells us that the pictures we get from our radio studios are very different from the material produced in BBC TV studios daily. There's something about the intensity of a filmed radio interview that I think you're going to find fascinating. But this is not just about AV - there is far more interactivity being offered to audiences through the new console. For instance, you can email the show directly from the console, and see the results of an audience vote on a 'swingometer'. We call this 'glanceable' content - the kind of stuff that will add something to your listening experience without being essential to it.

Another important aspect of the visualisation trial is our plan to share our findings with the rest of the radio industry, once the trial is complete. The whole UK radio industry needs to understand the implications of visualisation better and we're happy to help spread the knowledge we acquire during the trial.

5Live's Simon Mayo trial ran from 1-19 June. The remainder of the trial started with The Chris Moyles Show on Radio 1, and will run across all participating programmes until 31 July.

Posts by Brett Spencer on the News Editors blog and Guy Strelitz on the Radio Labs blog have already appeared and Mark Damazer, Radio 4 Controller, has written about the Material World experiment on the Radio 4 blog. Participants and listeners will be twittering their experience - on both sides of the glass and on both sides of the mic. Keep your eye on the hashtag #vistrial to read their contributions (but remember the BBC doesn't control what appears on Twitter).

Please join in with our experiment in adding pictures to live radio - on your computer or on your mobile - and let us know what you think, here on the blog or via the participating programmes.

Mark Friend is Controller, Multiplatform & Interactive, BBC Audio & Music

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I've tried a few of these out and I really dislike them. As was mentioned during the first trial, the differences in the audio mixing between TV and Radio lead to you sitting there watching sound that just doesn't seem to fit with the vision, the sound being very 2D compared to the 3D pictures.

    It simply creates a thing that is difficult to watch and keeping the thing running - at least on moyles show - appears to disrupt the flow of the actual programme.

    In addition, I find radio making a strange thing to watch as the people are too busy making sure they're lined up with the mics and pressing buttons and pretending that the little minions who float around aren't there.

    I think a less is more approach is needed. Yes it can be amusing and mildly distracting to look at the webcams and indeed an updates version of those, perhaps with a simple video webcam or two on the celing would be welcome, but the current setup simply doesn't work. :(

  • Comment number 2.

    I disagree very strongly with the reasoning that:
    "Over a third of people in the UK listen to digital radio each week and most of these devices have a screen. As a result, people increasingly expect visuals to supplement their listening"

    All this means is:
    "A lot of people listen to the radio while sat on the computer which means they are using the screen as an interface for a computer". It does not follow that people want to see other people sat at desks in a studio.

  • Comment number 3.

    This is technology being developed because its possible/for its own sake.
    the presence of a screen of some sort is not a reason to start turning it into yet another tv channel.
    If I want to watch TV, then I watch TV, mostly however I want to listen to intelligent radio while doing something else.

    There is also the bandwidth issue, my broadband is so marginal that I can't sometimes listen to internet radio at the minimum quality offered, adding pictures will only make things worse, clutter up the internet with more "bells & whistles" content and make contention ratios even worse, for what?

  • Comment number 4.

    I kinda feel like the only platform that I'd be interested in using this on is my iPhone - then I've got it in my hand and I can really engage, particularily with things like the interactive Moyles polls or sending messages.

    But it doesn't work on those sorts of platforms :-(

    Phazer

  • Comment number 5.

    #2. At 09:16am on 29 Jun 2009, fernihough wrote:

    "All this means is:
    "A lot of people listen to the radio while sat on the computer which means they are using the screen as an interface for a computer". It does not follow that people want to see other people sat at desks in a studio."


    Well said, spot on, I really do wish the BBC would stop trying to reinvent the wheel, people who want to access 'radio with pictures' can watch that other 'wheel' called television...

    On a wider issue about visualising via the digital platform, radio is special because there are no pictures, it's often said that the charters in the Archers (for example, and indeed any radio drama) are different to every listener because everyone's imagination is different, indeed there are some who refuse to - knowingly - look at pictures of the cast because to do so might destroy the mental image that they have built up over the years, for these people if 'visualisations' started to be used on such platforms you would actually be restricting these peoples choice as to how and when they access such programmes.

  • Comment number 6.

    To some degree, I have to agree with the above comments. Webcams in radio studios have been around for years. I've always known that they're there, but I don't care to look at these people. I want to listen to them.

    However, that doesn't mean there shouldn't be any visual element. I like a lot of the visual stuff you're working on, like Twitter feeds and texts. I'd love to see what other listeners are talking about, which can't necessarily be mentioned on air (due to time restrictions more than anything else). It would make it much more interactive. I'd also like to see this translated to TV. Any chance of a Twitter/text feed on the Freeview Red Button? I realise the bandwidth might be too much though.

    Also, if you must include pictures, keep it to stills. Album artwork or something relevant to the discussion could be very complimentary. Watching people talk is not so.

    (I actually quite dislike the Freeview radio interface. A permanent 'now playing' would go a long way to making it better!)

  • Comment number 7.

    What about DAB+?
    I gather the rest of Europe is not bothering with DAB & are going to use DAB+.
    Have we opted for the wrong format?
    Will we have to go through this all over again at some point in the near future?

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 10.

    It simply creates a thing that is difficult to watch and keeping the thing running - at least on moyles show - appears to disrupt the flow of the actual programme.

    In addition, I find radio making a strange thing to watch as the people are too busy making sure they're lined up with the mics and pressing buttons and pretending that the little minions who float around aren't there. http://www.seslichatailesi.net/

 

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