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Delivering Quality First: plans for online radio

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Daniel Danker Daniel Danker | 15:39 UK time, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

All of the BBC Radio networks

Yesterday we announced the next phase of Putting Quality First. As part of that announcement, we made the first mention of our upcoming 'Radio and Music product', which created a bit of confusion about our plans for online radio: I hope this post explains in a little more detail.

Yes, we do plan to build a new product for radio but this isn't to cut corners, or downplay what we do for radio online - as with everything we announced yesterday it's because we want to make the service better, not worse. In the case of radio and music, we think this means giving radio its own home.

Radio first became part of BBC iPlayer in 2008 because the BBC iPlayer brand was growing, so it made it easier for audiences, and there were benefits from bringing TV and radio closer together. It's not the only way of listening to BBC Radio online and you can access podcasts through the separate podcast website and also stream live through the network sites. We think this can be made simpler.

The majority of radio listening comes through the radio station web sites rather than iPlayer. At its heart, iPlayer is a product built for TV and audiences have different needs from TV and radio on the web. For instance, in BBC iPlayer nearly 90% of TV requests are for catch-up, whereas radio requests are around 70% live. Hence our decision to build a new product for radio and music that builds in podcasts and plays to the strengths of live radio.

The teams in Audio and Music and Future Media are working together to shape the product. We've not yet fully decided what it will look like, but broadly speaking, here's what we want the product to do:

  • Better bring out the personality of the networks, presenters and DJs
  • Rich pages for our flagship programmes (e.g. The Today Programme, The Archers)
  • Integrate music events
  • Be highly personalised and available on lots of internet-connected devices (people want radio on the move)
  • Be highly social; pulling in the buzz around live radio
  • Become a home for podcasts (both 'catch-up' and 'archive' content), as well as improve the way we offer clips
  • Make better use of technology to improve exploration, discovery, sharing, and listening
  • Create a new design especially for radio and music
  • Link up closely with the TV & iPlayer product (but not duplicate it), sharing links

Also, as we said yesterday, there are things it won't do. It won't offer track-by track streaming or aggregate third party stations, which brings me onto Radioplayer.

Though the BBC have been the technical architects in this project, it's a partnership. With our partners Global, GMG Radio, Absolute and the RadioCentre we want to bring all UK radio together in one place, and any Ofcom-licensed station can be involved. With listeners able to search by genre, presenter, programme and locality, audiences can discover new programmes and stations, and make use of other features. This has been running in beta for a while now, is looking great, and we expect it to launch very soon.

Though we've not yet worked the details through, we think both projects add up to a vastly improved online radio experience for audiences and hope to share more details soon.

UPDATE: In response to the queries in several comments below. Existing iPlayer/BBC website features including 7 day catch up, live streaming, podcast, clips, selected archive and availability on other devices will remain and be fully integrated into the new product/player.

Daniel Danker is General Manager, Programmes and On Demand, BBC Future Media & Technology


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm not really interested in listening to offerings from big commercial "delivering listeners to the advertiser" mega broadcast groups. Nor do I wish to tweet about my radio listening or know what others have pasted to their facebook.

    Will there be a catch-up or listen again service for BBC radio programme output? Is it just live streams and the odd podcast here and there that's being offered in a fancy wrapper?

  • Comment number 2.

    Squirrel, yes, everything that you can currently listen to on the radio station web sites and on iPlayer will be available in the new 'radio and music product'. It will also be easier to find and share.

    Steve Bowbrick, blogs editor, BBC Radio

  • Comment number 3.

    May I suggest that the easiest way to share programme links would be to take a leaf from We7, and supply an easily pasteable direct URL? This way, rather than saying "Share on a specific site", you can leave it up to us - cos I may be in a Java chat session somewhere - and it's easier to paste a URL...

    Will you be cross-linking with iPlayer or at least have some overall directory to BBC content? Just that I don't really fancy having to run searches twice... Actually - thinking about it - you could look again at the lookups possible on iPlayer v2 and maybe offer something similar?

    Good to hear that we'll still have the 7-day catchup, though..

  • Comment number 4.

    why not just save money/time etc etc by adopting radioplayer?
    whats wrong with it?

  • Comment number 5.

    Can you make an explicit comment on the preservation of the existing official XML datafeed of "Listen Again" content that is used by Internet radio device suppliers?

  • Comment number 6.

    "For instance, in BBC iPlayer nearly 90% of TV requests are for catch-up, whereas radio requests are around 70% live."
    Are those statistics based on those accessing iPlayer only via the website? If the statistics are for all platforms then it's a bit misleading as radio catch-up isn't available via iPlayer on Virgin Media, and presumably the same also applies to the iPlayer on Sky.

  • Comment number 7.

    Thanks for the feedback Steve, it is reassuring to know that the functionality will be retained.

  • Comment number 8.

    Bearing in mind the complete success you lot had in getting this website to its current state and make IwontPlayer work, how many more months, years and millions are going to be spent?

    I just want a simple interface to access programmes simply. I'm not a 15 year-old girl or similar - I don't need any of that unnecessary twaddle:
    * Better bring out the personality of the networks, presenters and DJs
    * Rich pages for our flagship programmes (e.g. The Today Programme, The Archers)
    * Integrate music events
    * Be highly social; pulling in the buzz around live radio
    * Make better use of technology to improve exploration, discovery, sharing, and listening

    Please don't antagonise your non-core audience even more.

  • Comment number 9.

    Growth in podcasts is good news for me BUT why did you stop thw fivelive breakfast phone in :(

  • Comment number 10.

    Possibly a bit of a departure from the thread but as a regular daily user of BBC Online I'd like to guess at what's going on. Feel free to disagree - I won't be offended.

    The Beeb is trying to put a brave face on a financial squeeze which is being imposed on it by vested interests and the Government. As a result it is being bullied into setting up cheap facilities for the use of non-BBC broadcasters, mostly profit-driven commercial stations. Why?

    The people who started these other services presumably did so because they expected a decent return on their investment. If it turns out that they haven't got it, they should be left to fail like so many other startup businesses. It's not the responsibility of the BBC and the British public to help them out.

    The BBC was established as an independent corporation funded by the licence fee to provide information, entertainment and education to us proles without fear of interference from either the Government or shareholders, a worthy aim.

    I pay my Licence Fee happily because I believe the BBC should be able to broadcast unfettered by political or commercial considerations. I object to my Licence money being used to support non-viable commercial enterprises which is what I think is happening.

  • Comment number 11.

    Only a few years ago, I remember the BBC imploring us that the simple 'radio player console' (which did exactly what it said on the tin) wasn't fit for purpose, and how essential it was to sweep it away and integrate it into the then proposed new baby of iPlayer. You told us how radio having its own home could not possibly be contemplated. Radio fans listened with their usual bemusement and raised eyebrow to the parade of brave but vacuous phrases ('seamless integration', 'richer user experience', 'transforming media consumption', etc etc) trotted out at the time.

    And now you want us to believe the converse.

    And in this time of 25% cuts, you want to spend a lot of money on this new bespoke radio player. (Btw, what sort of message does that send to your partners in the RadioPlayer consortium?)

    Please don't misunderstand me, I can sort of see (I think) some flavours of what you are trying to achieve, but what gets me is that FM&T is marching on as though they are still in the middle of the Huggers' great expansionist era. Get real, Mr Danker. Those days are gone.


    P.S. Thanks conion, you saved me a paragraph.

  • Comment number 12.

    Like many other listeners, I listen to BBC Radio programmes on a Reciva-enabled internet radio device, both live and using the extremely useful 'On Demand' feature. I do not listen using a computer, smart phone, tablet or other web-page displaying device.

    I therefore have two questions:

    1. Will BBC Radio still be available, as it is now, on Reciva-enabled internet radios?

    2. Will the 'On Demand' feature still be available, as it is now, on Reciva-enabled internet radios?

  • Comment number 13.

    1) Why RESTRICT the "listen again" (actually "listen later" would be a better name) to SEVEN DAYS? Radio France restricts it to one month. Several Eastern European countries (e.g. Hungary, Estonia) make all the programmes they broadcast available on demand FOR EVER.

    2) Why RESTRICT the sound quality which British (and other) listeners receive who happen to be ABROAD? It is they who are most in need of a good service! Please forget the insular mind-set of "restrict this", "limit that." So "make better use of technology" - yes indeed in this respect, please do.

    3) "Bring out the personality of the presenters." Well the correct traditional name for them is "announcers" and I have not the slightest interest in their "personality." Their job - at least on Radio 3 - should be to state the names, composers, and performers of the works which are played; and to state them as clearly as possible both before and after the works are played. That is all that is required. To imagine that the listener might be interested in the "personality" of the announcer is a mere insult to the listener!

    4) "listeners able to search by genre, presenter, programme and locality." - "Search by genre" - no I don't want that thank you. - "Search by presenter" - no I don't want that either thank you. - "Search by programme" - well no I would use that very rarely, only for the "Hear and Now" programme perhaps. - "Search by locality" - no I have no nee for that either.

    What I DO want, and what you do not mention, is the ability to SEARCH BY COMPOSER. Is your software capable of handling that fundamental requirement? If not it is not fit for purpose.

  • Comment number 14.

    @Barns - I'm sorry that your are disappointed that the Your Call podcast is no longer available.

    We have recently reviewed the performance of all 5 live podcasts and as a result have closed some of them, including Your Call. It's never an easy decision to stop something that some people enjoy but we have to balance the work it takes to create the podcast with the number of consumers in the context of the overall 5 live operation.

    If you can't listen to Your Call live it is still available to hear via the 5 live website for seven days after broadcast >> https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tt9hz

    If you would like to see which other 5 live podcasts are available there's a full list here >> https://www.bbc.co.uk/5live/podcasts/

    Nigel (Interactive Editor, 5 live)

  • Comment number 15.

    Dear Arbiter

    I will use search by genre, OK it will be mainly Folk.
    I will search by location to find coverage of events in particular places: eg Folk festivals & Wildlife happenings.
    I will search by presenter because some do pop up on more than programme/station.
    I agree with a search by 'composer' but also would like 'artist' as not all music on radio is classical :)

    I am lucky to use a paid for magic piece of software on my iMac to find radio stations worldwide, including all BBC output, search facilities are a given for that. The bonus is it auto records straight to HD. I can also put said programme onto other devices to listen as and when I choose, no need for podcasts esp BBC music based show podcasts which axe the music content due to contract restrictions.

    BBC for great contract terms please take a leaf out of NPR, National Public Radio, in the States on how to broadcast and archive music of all genres online. :)

    The radio future, for those of us who pursue our listening via the internet into state of the art speakers rather than our old steam radios, is looking better all the time. I just think back to sitting on a cold lino floor with my toddler's ears against a radiogram fretworked front as 'Listen with Mother' crackled into life ~ progress gotta love it sometimes.

    Happy listening,

  • Comment number 16.

    What iPlayer functionalities are you planning to ditch in the new radio player?


  • Comment number 17.

    What progress has been made in rolling out the "package of enhancements to the Favourites feature" announced on 3 September last year?


  • Comment number 18.

    Radio Four live online is like listening to people gargling sand at the moment. All other national BBC stations online sound okay. Is Four the first to receive the 'improvement'?

  • Comment number 19.

    It is vital that BBC local radio is allowed to shine as a result of this change, plans for which must not be dominated by the national stations. BBC local provision is unique, hugely popular and highly interactive. Here, BBC Radio Shropshire is part of the weft and weave of our community, helping share and shape opinion, and support individuals and local communities. You would never guess this from the BBC Shropshire website, which is bland, slow to be updated, fails to reflect the dynamism of local radio provision.

    All radio stations are to some extent integrated with social media but, for example, Kent, Oxford, and Cambridge cannot compare with the way that Shropshire uses social media.

    A new delivery platform for online local radio should celebrate the diversity of local radio provision and recognise the significant contribution it makes to society (OK, the Big Society if you must). What must be stopped is the gradual creep of blandness into local radio from greater central provision of content and excess dictation from BBC centre of what local radio might look and sound like.

    So, it’s a choice. Will the new platform lead to greater diversity in local content? Or will it contribute to the trend of greater standardisation, as has been happening for several years and is now sweeping into commercial radio?

  • Comment number 20.

    @jatrius (#18) - this is now logged.

  • Comment number 21.

    I live abroad, and use the radio iPlayer a lot. Why is it blocked on my iPhone? Is there any chance of this block being lifted?

  • Comment number 22.

    In principle, I welcome the return of a dedicated radio player; I was always unhappy about the integration into the iPlayer. As an iPhone user, I can listen to podcasts and stream iPlayer (and I have an app for listening live) but I would very much like a way to download programmes and put them on the iPhone (radio and TV), especially for listening on the underground where I can't listen live. Is the problem with this with the BBC or Apple?

  • Comment number 23.

    Recently BBC Radio 3 HD launched with glorious high quality sound using a 320kbps AAC stream on iPlayer. Comments were made at the time that this was potentially going to be extended to other BBC radio stations and also possibly Listen Again. No mention of this has been made in any of the announcements. Is this still going ahead or is this improved quality going to be sacrificed? It would be a great shame if we lost this, we finally have something that sounds clearly better than FM (unlike DAB which has been ruined due to low bit rates cause by too many stations).

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm fairly happy with what we have at present and certainly have no desire for yet more changes and disruption. However one small thing would make my listening much more pleasurable. When I'm listening to Radio 3 as at present, some simple way of finding out what is being played would really help. Many internet stations do this eg. the superb Venice Classical Radio - why not Radio 3?

  • Comment number 25.

    On behalf of the still-many-of-us-overseas who continue to battle the now historic "buffering" of the radio feeds, can I ask whether these new developments offer any hope?

  • Comment number 26.

    In relation to #25 @ListenPal:

    The blog discusses the direction of the front-end products, and not the back-end delivery services - so it is not directly related to these sorts of issues. The other problem we have with 'buffering' issues is that they can be caused by many third-parties, not just ourselves.

    The internet is about inter-connected networks: where one network doesn't necessarily have control of what happens in another. This makes it difficult to track down issues such as those which tend to present themselves as 'buffering', but could easily be caused by insufficient bandwidth on your local internet connection or the quality of your connection.

    Some solace may be sought in that the BBC is not the only media organisation with these problems and that we do all try to improve things by influencing the growth of the internet.

    If you have specific 'buffering' issues - please log the issues through the contact form available by reading this page and following the instructions to 'contact us':


    Alan Ogilvie, BBC

  • Comment number 27.

    On the new player will bit rates be provided for each individual station?
    For e.g as I have previously said on many blogs here I find

    BBC Local radio @ 96k aac & listen again 80k mp3 unacceptable so if this remains I wont click on the station but if indeed it upgrades to National stream Hi-fi quality then I will feel ready to tune in.
    I also find my licence fee is more aimed at Radio 3 fans than a Radio 2 fan like myself. If you are to use HD sound for Radio 3 then it shouls be across the bbc stations.

  • Comment number 28.

    Three weeks ago the original blog post said

    "This has been running in beta for a while now, is looking great, and we expect it to launch very soon."

    and since I appreciate that the word "soon" has a degree of flexibility in the BBC dictionary please can we have a real date for this Radioplayer to be available.

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi could you ensure that the new Radioplayer is available to licence payers in the Isle of Man. Our ip addresses tend to be viewed as "foreign" until we complain and someone adds it to the allowed list.

  • Comment number 30.

    We are Brits who live in Serbia and used to listen to BBC radio (all stations) on our internet radio. About 3 days ago we stopped being able to access all BBC stations apart from the world Service. We can still get streaming via i-player on our laptop but not through the internet radio. Any idea why this is? I need my 6 music fix and the sound quality on our laptop is shocking!

  • Comment number 31.

    I live in Monaco and my only link to Radio 4 is via the Internet. My computer provides me with day-long listening opportunities. Broadcasts have become increasingly interrupted requiring "REFRESH" which sometimes works. Since yesterday there has been radio silence. Does anyone out there know why and whether we can hope for resumption of services.

  • Comment number 32.

    @I1234 and @alexiawhiting - please note that these sort of queries are best to go through the 'contact pages'. To access them - find the most suitable FAQ regarding the issue and, assuming it doesn't answer your question, find the bit at the bottom of the answer that asks you if "Did this answer your question?" and click the "No, can you help me" option. You will then be taken to a form that will gather further information.

    For example this FAQ talks about IP address checking (though I don't think it applies directly to your queries, it's somewhere to start) - https://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/outside_the_uk/told_not_in_uk - and I suggest you follow my advice above and click "No, can you help me".

    Alan Ogilvie

  • Comment number 33.

    Please reassure me that the Radio Catch-up will still be available? I work shifts and listen mainly too Radio 7 (rebranded Radio 4xtra... why?) when off duty and want to unwind.

  • Comment number 34.

    karen - I hope this blog post published today about Radioplayer answers your question and gives you some reassurance.



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