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Listen again to BBC radio shows on the iPhone

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Mark Friend Mark Friend | 12:50 UK time, Tuesday, 23 September 2008

aod_iphone.pngOne of the secrets of radio's success has been the ability to listen to it while you're on the move.

Half a century ago, the transistor radio helped to start a revolution in the way people consume media and it's estimated that there are several billion of them being used around the world.

So it's not surprising that lots of people have been asking when they'll be able to listen to the BBC's digital radio services on mp3 players and mobiles.

From today, you'll be able to listen to BBC radio programmes on demand on an iPhone or iPod Touch for up to seven days after broadcast.

You'll need to be online via a wifi connection and will be able to listen to our radio shows in mp3 format (at 128kbps).

This launch is thanks to the hard work of the BBC's future media teams who have had to adapt audio (and image) formats to suit the iPhone and iPod Touch, change the way audio files are delivered and redesign the service to include the wealth of new content available.

On October 1st, the BBC iPlayer goes live on the Nokia N96 (see Matthew Postgate's post below). We anticipate rolling out audio on demand to other portable devices soon.

Will this change where and when you listen to radio? Do let me know by leaving a comment.

ousby_ipods.jpg
Image by John Ousby of Regency TR-1 transistor radios from 1954 and iPod Minis from 2005 as featured in this BBC News Magazine article - neither piece of kit has wifi connectivity

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

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    So, logically if every BBC Radio programme is MP3 format then we can have the all as podcasts?

    The normal iPlayer would be great if you could download the radio as well as the TV!

  • Comment number 2.

    You guys continue to rock my world :)

  • Comment number 3.

    Why has rolling out on-demand radio programmes to iPhone users been prioritised ahead of improving the awful audio quality of the BBC's live Internet radio streams?

    People spend 16 million hours per week listening to the BBC's live Internet radio streams, yet according to the BBC's own figures from their 3G trial, watching TV and listening to radio on mobile phones has so far proven to be very much a minority sport, so the number of people who would benefit from on-demand programmes being available on the iPhone/iTouch will be tiny in comparison to those who would benefit from the improvement in quality of the live streams.

    In previous BBC Internet blogs James Cridland said that the bit rates of the live streams would be increased straight after the quality improvements on the on-demand radio streams had taken place, but the on-demand streams were improved in July, and it's now almost October and there have been no change whatsoever to the live streams.

    Considering that the live streams account for 70% of all BBC Internet radio's weekly listening-hours, why were the on-demand streams even improved in quality ahead of the live streams?

  • Comment number 4.

    Does this mean live Stream of all the radio stations not just listen again ?

  • Comment number 5.

    @magicSilky - it sounds like only the on-demand radio streams will be available:

    "you'll be able to listen to BBC radio programmes on demand on an iPhone or iPod Touch for up to seven days after broadcast"

    Why the live streams won't be available is anybody's guess.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hmm.

    From today, you'll be able to listen to BBC radio programmes on demand on an iPhone or iPod Touch for up to seven days after broadcast.

    Subtext: If you can convince the servers that you've got an iPhone, even when you haven't, you'll be able to download BBC output in a standard, cross-platfrom DRM-free format.

    Yay for the iPhone. Again.

  • Comment number 7.

    I can't find any radio programme on my iPhone thats not 'currently unavailable' ???

  • Comment number 8.

    Why can't we stream over 3G or EDGE? Sure, it'd cut out from time-to-time and might be a little slow at loading, but it'd be a lot more useful than wi-fi, which isn't available if you're out and about...

    If I'm at home I can just listen on my computer.

  • Comment number 9.

    @MartinSFP - radio downloads would be useful as well because you could download programmes ahead of time via Wi-Fi without the data counting towards your monthly download allowance and it would avoid streams buffering. But the BBC hasn't applied to the BBC Trust for permission to provide these yet, so it'll be ages before they're available.

  • Comment number 10.

    There's a bit of an obsession with the iPhone as an iPlayer platform...

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't think it is a regular MP3 stream.
    An example URL suggests that there is some Apple cleverness going on.

    For example:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/3/auth/stream/httpdl_iphone/direct/radio4/secure_auth/RBN2_1600_fri_b00dhxkz_2008_09_19_15_44_57.mp3

    Note the reference to secure_auth

  • Comment number 12.

    Surely if sites such as Beebotron (http://beebotron.endoftheinternet.org/index.html) can provide a satisfactory workaround, the BBC can do likewise?

    That site lets me access live and listen again content on my Nokia N82 via RealPlayer on WiFi, so it's perfectly possible. Of course, an "official" solution would doubtless be neater.

  • Comment number 13.

    You ask "will this change where and how you listen to radio?" - you bet! Now I'll be able to "listen again" from a WiFi hotspot: I don't carry a laptop around but I do have my Touch with me all the time. I love radio but it's impossible to be in the right place atthe right time to catch everything as it's broadcast. Very few music programs are available as podcasts so "listen again" is my only way to catch up on programmes I've missed. Thanks so much for adding this new dimension to your excellent service: the way that the Beeb is constantly expanding it's online offer these days is wonderful!

  • Comment number 14.

    Hardly mobile radio if I need to be near a wifi hotspot to listen to the BBC. It's useless to me if I can't stream the content over 3G. I suspect the BBC has caved into O2 who I am sure would prefer it if we just handed over our "all you can eat" subscription amount every month but kept the phone switched off.

  • Comment number 15.

    Whereas this is a great step forward, I personally would have preferred to have live mp3 streams.

    There are several iPod/iPhone radio tuner apps available that would have worked with an mp3 stream. I guess the argument against this is making it easily accessible for free.

    For those that are interested, it is possible to get live streaming with the app 'FStream' on the iPhone/iPod in conjunction with the BBC's .ASX streams. The audio quality is pants (20kbps) and the app is somewhat ropey, but it is live ;o)

  • Comment number 16.

    I am unable to access the IPlayer streams "starting today" from my IPhone 3G here in America (San Francisco to be exact). Specifically, when I go to the IPlayer mobile site, I don't get the full screen. Rather, I can only see the top bar (labeled "Home, TV, Radio, Search") and then the footnote portion ("Help, Contact Us, Terms of Use, Privacy Policy"). And none of these links work. I'm on a wi-fi conection, so I would expect to be able to reach the radio programmes at the very least.

    Can someone else on an IPhone please write in with suggestions, or at least tell me if you are able to stream the radio programs yet? Also please tell me where you are from, because perhaps the radio programs are not available in the United States yet?

  • Comment number 17.

    @ invisibleman_24

    iPlayer only works in the UK. Even if you happen to have paid a license fee, but currently be in another country there is no way to view the TV + Radio programmes.

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry BBC, but I am very disappointed that this development does not cover 3G/EDGE streaming or indeed live radio.

    It seems to miss the point that radio is the perfect MOBILE medium. I echo comments 8 and 14 that when out and about with a mobile phone, we're only very rarely going to have a constant wifi connection. I may have wifi at home and in the office, but there I also have a laptop, TV and a radio!

    Sure, one day I might be STATIC - hanging about an airport departure lounge or station, suddenly able to watch the radio/TV that I have already paid for via my licence fee. Marvellous, but what about the everyday, when I nip out of my office for lunch, and am now denied access to Radio 4's The World at One?! (Which I used to enjoy via the FM tuner on my old mobile phones.)

    Wifi hotspots are frequently paid-for - and you're unlikely to want to pay for multiple hotspots while walking down the street.

    The iPhone 3G from O2 requires a mandatory 'unlimited' data package, charged (within the overall contract) at £10 per month. I spoke to O2 and they said that there is a 'fair usage policy', but the theoretical limit is about 3.5GB and so very unlikely to be exceeded on a mobile phone. O2 no longer prohibits the use of streaming radio in its terms and conditions.

    Several other UK and international stations stream fine over 3G on an iPhone - Capital Radio, Virgin, Classic, Choice, and indeed the BBC World Service. Some streams use dedicated iPhone applications, such as Tuner, FlyCast or AOL Radio, and others work via the Safari browser. It is a real shame that I now have to look to the competition for my radio fix.

    The BBC News article referred to above, about the launch of iPlayer for the Nokia N96, talks about supporting 3G streaming AND downloads of TV/radio programmes.

    Could we please have a clear explanation from the BBC about why 3G streaming is blocked on the iPhone, and an indication of its future development plans?

    From various internet forums I have participated in, to talk of complicated 'workarounds' with very poor results, I know that there are a lot of disgruntled licence payers who are very disappointed at not being able to access BBC content - while mobile in the true sense - on their iPhones.

    Maybe we should blame Steve Jobs for refusing to put an FM or better still DAB tuner in his magical new device. However, I would have hoped that some relatively simple adjustments from the BBC - or a proper iPlayer application available from the iTunes AppStore - could resolve this issue and end our collective frustration.

    Many thanks for your attention.

  • Comment number 19.

    "The iPhone 3G from O2 requires a mandatory 'unlimited' data package, charged (within the overall contract) at ?10 per month. I spoke to O2 and they said that there is a 'fair usage policy', but the theoretical limit is about 3.5GB and so very unlikely to be exceeded on a mobile phone. O2 no longer prohibits the use of streaming radio in its terms and conditions."

    Dunno where you've got this from - the current O2 Terms and Conditions for iPhones are here - http://www.o2.co.uk/termsconditions/iphone.

    Go to the section labeled "O2 Tarriffs for iPhone Terms" and expand it, and the section labeled "Data". Clause 4 states "You may not use your SIM Card in any other device, or use your SIM Card or iPhone to allow the continuous streaming of any audio / video content"

    That would seem to prohibit the use of streaming radio from where I'm sitting.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 20.

    Thanks for this Phazer - you are right that this is what the letter of terms and conditions you quote say. However, I would note that they were last updated in Feb 2008, before the July release of the iPhone 3G.

    Before the iPhone, I had another 3G phone, and took out an O2 data bolt-on of 250MB per month, for 8.81GBP per month. When I took this out they alerted me to the prohibition on continuous streaming audio/video.

    However, when I upgraded to the iPhone, I specifically asked the sales team if there was any limit to the iPhone ‘unlimited’ data package, and whether it was now OK to stream radio stations. They said this was fine and that they knew iPhone customers wanted to use lots of data. If streaming isn’t allowed, then I don’t know how you’d classify use of core iPhone applications such as YouTube. Surely O2 wouldn’t prohibit the use of YouTube on 3G (this is certainly streaming but maybe it isn’t ‘continuous’)?

    Maybe O2 should review/update their written terms and conditions? And what about N96 devices on O2 that do continuous 3G streaming via the iPlayer? I’d like to see the BBC and O2 being somewhat clearer about what they will and will not countenance, and indeed pursuing a liberal approach where possible. Useful applications such as continuous streaming actually drive takeup of 3G services and spur on operators to improve their network capacity. IMHO continuous streaming should be encouraged, not outlawed!

  • Comment number 21.

    Another good reason for Boris to hurry up with his proposed Wi-Fi coverage for all of London.

  • Comment number 22.

    "However, when I upgraded to the iPhone, I specifically asked the sales team if there was any limit to the iPhone ?unlimited? data package, and whether it was now OK to stream radio stations. They said this was fine and that they knew iPhone customers wanted to use lots of data."

    I'm afraid you've learnt a valuable lesson here. Sales staff lie. A lot.

    "If streaming isn?t allowed, then I don?t know how you?d classify use of core iPhone applications such as YouTube. Surely O2 wouldn?t prohibit the use of YouTube on 3G (this is certainly streaming but maybe it isn?t ?continuous?)?"

    It currently does prohibit YouTube. Why they don't enforce it there is a mystery, though I suspect that Apple is simply leaning on them not to. I'm afraid O2 is rarely (and not particularily obligated to be) logical or internally consistent.

    "And what about N96 devices on O2 that do continuous 3G streaming via the iPlayer?"

    Dunno, been asking the BBC about this in every blog post I can find myself.

    I don't see O2 changing their position much though - their 3G infrastructure is simply not up to providing significant amounts of streaming media. It can't really keep up with the demands iPhone users put on it as is, which is why we get so many network errors.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 23.

    Why is International access blocked out from iPhone iPlayer Radio ????

    When accessing iPlayer from a laptop, one can listen to the radio live and to past programs from anywhere in the world. The FAQ states that even though TV is restricted to the British Isles, Radio is left open.

    However, just like invisible_man in the states, when I access the iplayer on the iphone here in France, I get just the header and a few non-functional buttons.

    Please make the iplayer radio pages on the iphone as unrestricted as those accessed from a laptop. One tends to travel more often with ones phone than ones laptop...


  • Comment number 24.

    It would be helpful if the BBC could clarify who has access to which services they offer for the iphone. I, for example, bought the IPhone with the expectation that I will one day be able to listen to live, streaming BBC radio in America from my mobile. BBC has promised that they will provide that they will stream their radio to mobiles in the future, and so I purchased the phone on that promise. If they will only provide radio services within the UK, then please tell me that so I can invest my time and attention properly. Or perhaps its that the BBC quite understandably will roll out the service in the UK first, and overseas later?

    And it doesn't strike me that access to BBC radio on my mobile in the US would be a license fee issue, because the UK has ALWAYS broadcast its radio overseas, so why not to mobile? Its not like I don't already listen to BBC radio every single day on my computer over here in San Francisco.

  • Comment number 25.

    of course it will change where and when i listen to it. i will listen to it at my home, the 6 months of the year i am there, because i don't have the luxury of wi-fi at university or generally when im walking around outside.

    the whole point of the project surely is to bring radio to those on the move, portable radio, it's hardly portable if you have to be either in starbucks, mcdonalds or your house to listen to it, if i have to be at home to listen to the radio i may aswell.. turn on the radio o.O.

    it's a nice thought, but its the equivalent of 'now you can listen to the radio outside of your home.. just head on down to bbc studios for your free out n about radio'

  • Comment number 26.

    It's already been mentioned several times in comments already, but just to add some weight to the argument I totally agree with what's been said about the restriction of streaming over WiFi. When we're out and about most of us only have access to 3G or GPRS and when we're at home we have other means to listen to the radio.

    The service may not be available on the iPhone for any number of reasons (technical or otherwise) and because most of us haven't got WiFi available to us when we're on the move perhaps iPlayer on the iPhone could include some way to store a programme to listen to later on in much the same way as iPlayer on Windows desktops (or so I've been told, I use a Mac)?

    Live Streaming of radio through iPlayer on the iPhone is long overdue and it would be interesting to hear the reasons why this isn't available yet.

    I may use the facility from time to time at home, but because of not being able to use iPlayer when I'm out and about I will continue to use Podcasts as my primary method of catching up on missed BBC radio shows such as The News Quiz and The Now Show.

    However, having said all that the BBC should be congratulated for continuing to push forward these kinds of innovations for the iPhone (and other devices). I'm sure things will develop further and I will continue to watch with interest.

  • Comment number 27.

    "If streaming isn't allowed, then I don't know how you'd classify use of core iPhone applications such as YouTube. Surely O2 wouldn't prohibit the use of YouTube on 3G (this is certainly streaming but maybe it isn't 'continuous')?"

    ---

    It isn't continuous, and neither is the majority of content on the iPlayer. The only streams that are continuous are the 'live' streams such as the News 24 one, which do not have a finite length.

    If the iPhone terms and conditions are the reason for the BBC's restriction, then they are being overly cautious.

  • Comment number 28.

    Please include 3G. I didn't pay over the odds for an iPhone contract just to have everything limited to WiFi... You can buy music over 3G... You can watch YouTube over 3G...

    A good start, but remove the limit please! It doesn't benefit us - the license fee payers, and there's no reason that O2 have to have any say in the matter.

  • Comment number 29.

    You can't buy music over 3G. That's blocked too.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 30.

    Iphone is good, but sometime, it's hard to get it. Also, if there is someone who tired of contract, may try pay as you go, then www.globwon.com will be a good place to go and have a look.

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with many of the points re: wifi access, although in the long-run I rather suspect that wi-fi will be available wherever you go. Really, until downloading radio as we can tv, being able to access the radio iplayer on an ipod touch/iphone will still be pretty limited.
    However I can see it being useful around the house for the listen again programmes - you can't listen to something which was on a few days ago just by turning on the radio you have in your kitchen/lounge etc. Before I have had to move my laptop around with me, (and often the power cable), now all I need is my ipod.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi all
    please allow 3G streaming if I can do it from my laptop with a 3G dongle what's the difference with an iPhone?. After all other radio stations do it if it's a licence problem why don't you get me to enter my license number in before use . Bit of a nonsense really when you can get nearly all content without one.

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