[okfn-discuss] "Open" and public broadcasting

Steven Clift clift at e-democracy.org
Fri Feb 13 18:43:57 UTC 2015

I'd be curious what folks in Open Knowledge circles think about:


Should public broadcasters be more open with their streams??

You have to look at the comments:


The highest rated one:

80. Posted byCJ_Epping
on10 Feb 2015 22:52

Firstly thankyou for your open approach to discussion via this blog. Often
these are faceless decisions. Being accountable results in a lot of
personal grief!
I’m afraid however that I won’t help on that count as I must tackle some of
the arguments put forward to justify this strategy. Quoting from an email
from Audience Services received earlier:

‘… we had to make choices around standardisation. We have decided to use
the http streaming formats HLS, HDS and DASH.’

HDS and HLS are proprietary protocols restricting usage to certain
applications (discredited and insecure Adobe Flash & Apple for mobile OS).
DASH is a similarly complex future solution that is not supported by
current equipment. You are standardising yes, but on formats that can’t be
used by hardware internet radio steaming devices because you are forging
your own path, and seemingly focussing on desktop & mobile devices which
aren’t designed to reproduce the high quality streams you are making
available to them (and waste power!).

‘We began communicating our plans to internet radio manufacturers over 12
months ago. HLS streams are now available to internet radios and
aggregators that wish to use them.’

As above, was it realistic to expect manufacturers to invest money on new
formats just because the BBC decides to go its own way? Pushing blame onto
manufacturers for lack of adoption does not absolve you of responsibility
to your listeners. You didn’t need to choose these protocols. The BBC can
modify its stance.

‘We have kept a single shoutcast stream of every live service to support
devices that will never be able to play HLS, HDS or DASH streams. Whist we
cannot promise to support shoutcast for more than 1 to 2 years, we will
monitor the number of users and the quality of our service and base our
decision making on the impact to the audience.’

People are upset that you have removed the main reason many of them bought
internet radios – to listen to the highest quality source for BBC Radio. I
would respectfully suggest that even basic internet radios bought within
the last 3 years have AAC-LC support at 320kbps. A reduction from 320kbps
AAC to 128kbps MP3 for Radio 3 (sub-DAB quality) must be acknowledged as a
significant reduction for people who may have invested hundreds of pounds
in HiFi streamers.

The need to give listeners what they pay for has to trump your need to
track the platform they are using surely? And you are further threatening
them with being cut off from the remaining MP3 lifeline in 1 years time.
The argument that you have to use 128kbps only because the streams are also
there for international usage doesn’t provide comfort to UK based licence
fee payers. And apparently these streams are already having breakup

Absolute Radio manage to broadcast 7 stations of AAC+ @ 128kbps on
(dareisay) a fraction of your budget. Is it really that hard to publish the

‘I hope that manufacturers will be able to support our new streams or
upgrade existing devices as time goes on’

Unfortunately this sums up this decision – keep our fingers crossed and
hope the fuss blows over.

AND this one caught my eye:

297. Posted byPrisca
on12 Feb 2015 14:38

Just registered to comment on this issue. I feel the pain of all the
Squeezebox/internet radio fans, but please spare a thought for those of the
blind community.
My husband uses a suite of applications written and provided free for the
blind by Dr Alistair King at Manchester university. These include a radio
tuner, which was used daily by my husband. This no longer works.
He also had radio access via his Android phone provided by a company called
Telorion, who provide a modified Android OS specifically for the blind. The
radio function no longer works.
He could also receive radio via his book reader, Victor Stream. Surprise,
surprise, this also no longer works.
He is now unable to access radio at all. He cannot use the main radio site
as the link to play live radio is based on Flash, which his screen reader
cannot read.
Great, thanks BBC. The blind community rely on radio. There are a lot of
very unhappy people around today.


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