Podcasting the BBC

A few weeks ago a comment was left on Mark Devenport’s blog about BBC NI podcasting. The Freedom of Information Act is great for this kind of thing, so I made a request about it, the response to which is below the fold.

Essentially I think that they are telling me that it costs nothing to podcast shows such as this, particularly as shows like GMU and Talkback have best of shows already complied each week. Inside Politics could be podcast without any major editing I would imagine. As far as the central distribution costs are concerned, reading between the lines they seem to say that it costs a negligible amount for each extra podcast the BBC produce. This being the case, the commenter of the same name on the Devenport Diaries has a bit of a point – why aren’t BBC NI podcasting this material if it costs pretty much nothing? The medium of podcasting and on demand content is fantastic, it’s a really convenient way of distributing high quality material to as wide an audience as possible. For the BBC, with no production costs and perhaps a close to fixed distribution cost, it would be very easy to increase access to low demand content that is in the public interest through this medium.

Thank you for your recent letter requesting information about the costs involved in making the Stephen Nolan Show, Inside Politics, Talkback and Evening Extra available as free downloads on the BBC’s online service.

Stephen Nolan’s weekday morning programme on BBC Radio Ulster is currently the only local radio programme which is also available as a podcast or free download. Discussion excerpts or themes are selected by editorial staff as part of the programme’s routine production effort. These are encoded by a software package which allows them to be published online in a downloadable format. This service has required no additional staff resource within the programme’s production team. Distribution costs are handled centrally by the BBC and cannot be easily (or credibly) disaggregated on an individual programme basis. It is hoped that an increasing volume of local radio output will be available in downloadable form over the coming period. Such provision will facilitate audiences in being able to access BBC content in ways which reflect their listening needs, interests and availability. The scope and purpose of our commitments in this area have been approved by the BBC Trust following extensive trialling, research and a formal process of consultation.

  • Penelope

    I really wish they would, it would make things so much easier especially for those of us who live outside the broadcast zone.

    The BBC internet player is nice as is the ability to listen to programs up to a week later but that entails streaming media which is something I cannot do at work, which is when I would most likely listen. I especially enjoy the ATL dance show for exposure to music I’d not otherwise hear.

    Heck sometimes I just want to listen because I want to hear a Norn Iron accent!!! That said the editing for the Nolan podcast leaves much to be desired. The daily length of the podcast varies greatly, often just ending in the middle of a heated debate.

    Why edit it at all and not make the entire program availble? I listen to various PBS and NPR radio shows that do that so what’s the issue?

  • So how long is the “coming period” and exactly how much do they “hope” that volume of podcasts will increase by?

    Unless… by “downloadable” do they mean some kind of useless Digitally Restricted Media format that won’t play on generic portable music players and iPods?

    I think the Beeb is obsessed with its current DRM-laden video trials, and has pretty much dropped the ball on services that are actually useful to people who don’t want to carry a PC with them everywhere they want to listen to their programmes.

  • Michael Shilliday

    I don’t think that it matters what the volume is Paul. The BBC have a public service duty that stretches beyond simple listener figures. The Chris Moyles podcast is always going to get a million downloads a month, an Inside Politics or Talkback podcast will never reach that level, but that’s not the point. It’s free to produce, and in the public interest that the content is heard, so there is NO reason whatsoever to not do it.