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Brands, series, categories and tracklists on the new BBC Programmes

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Yves Raimond | 16:35 UK time, Thursday, 16 April 2009

Two weeks ago, we released the new version of BBC Programmes. This release includes many changes, supporting among other things the new Radio 4 and Radio 2 web sites. These two websites now use BBC Programmes as a platform. The navigation and user experience aspects have been mentioned across different places, but we thought we'd give more details about the new BBC Programmes features, along with some insights about developer-friendly aspects of the site.

The general philosophy behind BBC Programmes is that our web site is our API. In order to achieve that goal, we follow the Linked Data principles. For each thing within our domain, we provide several representations. For example, we provide standard XHTML web pages, geared towards human navigation. We also provide RDF/XML representations, geared towards machine-processability. BBC Programmes then enables further applications to be built on top of our data, as e.g. URIplay by Meta Broadcast does.

Brands and series pages

One of the biggest feature of the new BBC Programmes website is the addition of pages for brands and series, e.g. the Today programme or the third series of Heroes. These pages hold information about the brand or series itself, along with information about episodes that are available to listen or watch, and broadcasts that are coming up.

Programmatic access to brand or series information can be done using the corresponding RDF representations. For example, we expose RDF for the Today programme, and RDF for the third series of Heroes. This RDF holds links to further resources, like episodes within the brand or series, which will lead you to broadcasts of these episodes.

Clickable tracklists

Episode pages now hold tracklisting information. For example, this episode of Sarah Kennedy holds information about tracks played during that episode. The tracklisting information holds links to the corresponding artists, when they are available in BBC Music. More information about the artists played can then be gathered from BBC Music, including other BBC shows on which the artist has been broadcasted, line-up information, news, related links or albums' reviews. We are working on exposing RDF for those tracklists, which should be available soon.

Tags on episodes

Episodes now have tags associated with them. For example, that episode of the Today programme is associated with multiple tags. Our tags are clustered in three categories: people, places and subjects. Tags are automatically extracted from the long synopsis of a programme and editorially moderated within our content management system, the Programme Information Tool.

Again, programmatic access to this information can be achieved by using the RDF representation of those episodes. For example, the RDF for that episode of the Today programme includes statements linking the episode to the different tags associated with it.

Category pages

All our genres, formats and tags are modeled as categories --- buckets in which we put programmes. All these categories also have a page. For example, the music genre page holds information about available episodes in that genre, broadcasts that are coming up, and podcasts associated with that genre. It also holds a list of podcasts, and a set of filters that can be used to restrict the view to a sub-genre (e.g. Country) or a specific service (e.g. SciFi dramas on BBC Radio 7). All these categories also have machine-readable information, e.g. this RDF for Birmingham, which also includes WGS 84 coordinates. This enables small mashups with no code involved, using an RDF browser such as MIT's Tabulator Firefox extension, e.g. to plot available episodes on a map.

Available episode on a map

Further releases will provide tighter integration with DBpedia, providing links from categories to corresponding DBpedia resources. Such links enables further contextualisation of programmes, as DBpedia provides lots of general knowledge about these categories. For example, it would allow you to filter programmes by the birth place of the people involved in them, to discover relationships between programmes ("this programme features an interview of this artist, who used to play with that other artist, who is featured in that other programme"), etc. More details about the integration of DBpedia within BBC Programmes is given in a paper we wrote for the European Semantic Web Conference.

We also provide pages for category types, i.e. genres, formats, subjects, people and places. Machine-readable representations of those categories are also available. For example, the genres RDF holds the genre hierarchy we use, designed using the SKOS Simple Knowledge Organization System.

Schedules per category are also available, e.g. for "homes and gardens" factual programmes.

New release of the Programmes ontology

As our RDF representations gets richer and richer, we released a new version of our Programmes ontology, which handles the categories mentioned earlier, credits and temporal segmentation of programmes. We are also improving our modeling of services and channels, so that we can provide machine-readable information about where and how to access BBC services. We are still working on our feeds to make as much of our information available, and as raw as possible, but if you have any specific request, please contact us!



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