Monday, January 14, 2008

iPlayer - BBC grilled, but not enough

The high and mighty of the BBC attended a Public Accounts Committee meeting at the Houses of Parliament last week at which the closed nature of the iPlayer came up.

The most pointed questions on the subject came from Dr. John Pugh MP. His questions were about platform support, and the answers are pretty much what I would have expected, e.g. (taken from a Register article on the meeting):
John Pugh asked: "At what stage will you be able to download and stream to a Mac or a Linux computer?"

Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC replied "You can do that now,"

Well, the Director General was incorrect. You can't do that now. You can stream in YouTube style with the right plug-ins, but you can't download a programme to view later using iPlayer unless you have Microsoft Windows Vista or Microsoft Windows XP and use Microsoft Internet Explorer too.

You can see the entire meeting on Parliament Live for the next couple of weeks. The questions put by John Pugh start at ~12 minutes in. In there we hear that other platforms will be supported some time in the next two years. I'll believe it when I see it.

The meeting video is in .wmv format, unfortunately, and this is the area in which Dr. Pugh did not ask the questions I would have loved to hear answered, for example:
What UK or international standards body(s) control the file and streaming formats used by the BBC iPlayer?
The answer is none, of course. All the key formats are owned and controlled by US corporations.

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