BBC plans on-demand video downloads - but not for Mac users

by Giles Turnbull

The BBC, our beloved public service broadcaster, has been leading the pack in terms of web content for years. It has been offering a free “Listen again” service over the web for all its radio output for some time now, and everyone’s been wondering when it would do the same for TV.

That time has now come. The BBC Trust today gave a green light to the initial plans for BBC iPlayer, opening a consultation period during which those with an opinion are asked to offer their views. They can do so by downloading the proposals document and answering a questionnaire - both of which can be found at the Trust web site. Responses have to be in by March 28.

The important part of the document, as far as British Mac users are concerned, is on the second-to-last page:

The seven-day catch-up over the internet proposal requires users to have a up-to-date Microsoft operating system for full functionality. Review the provision of this service on a platform-agnostic basis (or across major platforms) within a reasonable timeframe and subject to value for money considerations and as technology allows.


2007-01-31 14:03:28
I guess that would include most BBC staff seeing as they've settled on Final Cut Pro as an internal tool
A Yank
2007-01-31 14:24:07
Being Winows only may not be the foregone you think it is. See As for the various bodies involved, you would know them better than I.
2007-01-31 14:26:23
@JulesLt... Final Cut would be used by all the mac users (read designers). The iPlayer is restricted to PCs with Windows (XP and above I believe), of which there are many in the BBC.

The DRM issue is of course unfortunate for Mac users (I count myself as one too), but you'll find this scenario happening with all the major players in this field. Just take a look at 4oD from Channel 4 for a start.

The choice to use Windows Media Player as the delivery format, with their proprietary DRM means that Mac users will be left out in the cold. I don't know the full technical details, but I believe that until the correct version of WMV files are playable on the Mac or Apple decides to open it's DRM to this purpose, we're essentially screwed.

Of course if anyone has a better explanation or can kill my argument with facts then please do tell.

2007-01-31 15:04:20
We keep hearing that BBC content is publically funded ... So what is the justification for forcing DRM on British consumers who already pay the licence fee?
James Shiell
2007-01-31 15:14:37
Given that the document suggests a platform agnostic client within '24 months' I would strongly suggest all other UK Mac users to fill in the questionnaire!

Also, they state they plan to replace the current WM and RealPlayer streams on the web-site with iPlayer - don't forget to let them know your thoughts, given this will break current Mac compatibility!

2007-01-31 16:31:11
As a UK tv license payer I will be expressing my views.
Why should I, paying the same as anyone else get a second grade service because I choose a different os?
The BBC, as has the British government been in bed with these buggers for a long time it's about time they got out.
2007-02-01 00:52:47
I worked at the BBC a few months ago, during the time when the BBC signed a deal with MS about using MS technologies. Rumour was that MS was courting the management pretty heavily at the time. A lot of the more techie people were pretty upset about this, being Mac or Linux proponents. Unfortunately the problem was (as is usually the case) that the people making the decisions were not the people who really understood the technical implications. I think there was also an agreement to move away from Perl an Linux to MS technologies for their web sites and services.
2007-02-01 01:45:11
The same thing is happening with Sky Anytime. Here we have a pioneering service from Sky (on demand programming on your PC) yet it is completely unavailable to Mac/Linux users because it uses Windows Media DRM. I dont see Microsoft putting out non Windows versions any time soon, so the situation is becoming a little uncomfortable.

But with the BBC, it is their duty to provide for all. Its in their remit. Mac/Linux marginalisation is not on in this case.

2007-02-01 02:36:26
I hope everyone is aware that if BBC stuff cannot be used on the Mac, it would effectively kill the Mac market in Britain. That alone would be a reason not to buy a Mac (and very few people really understand about Parallels and boot camp).

Since the MS/BBC agreement recently, I have noticed many more 'Mac security' articles on the BBC. The title is always "Mac/Apple security issue". When affecting Windows, the title is "PC security issue" when it should be "Windows Security issue". I have to doubt BBC's neutrality regarding computer issues nowadays.

2007-02-01 03:51:12

"I worked at the BBC a few months ago, during the time when the BBC signed a deal with MS about using MS technologies."

Tools. I've very little time for the BBC anyway, but this is atrocious.


"if BBC stuff cannot be used on the Mac, it would effectively kill the Mac market in Britain."

Not for me it won't. I just won't take their content. And I shan't be in the position of paying anyway for something I don't even use, because I don't own a TV, so don't pay the licence fee. And I don't own a TV in part because of my principled objection to funding the BBC, an organization which frequently disregards its charter obligations to avoid bias, which uses its peculiar funding method to get an unfair advantage over other commercial competitors (for example, other publishers of magazines (food, gardening, history, music, etc.), and which takes no advertising but is full of advertising -- viz, its own.

The BBC's peculiar position where it is the only private organization in the UK able to levy what is, in effect, a form of taxation should have been ended years ago. (OK, it doesn't actually levy the licence fee; the fee is collected for it; but let's not bicker over semantics here). With every year that passes there is less excuse for the licence fee, as new Channels become available, new providers (satellite, cable) offer content, other uses for the TV set emerge (e.g., watching VCR tapes or DVDs) and other technological solutions for paid content become viable (paying on-demand for specific content.) The licence fee is unjustifiable and becomes more so with every year that passes.

Offering proprietary content (windows media, real audio) is bad enough; switching to an MS-only solution is worse. It is unpardonable in an organization which has its hands in the pockets of people who don't choose to use MS products.

2007-02-01 06:29:09
I have to disagree with Mick's comment, I actually feel the licence fee is great value for money. I've compared the output of the other providers and I feel it falls short of the quality of BBC programming in comparison. As a parent I find having the BBC is especially great as my child is not exposed to the incessant advertising found on other channels or for that matter content that I don't feel is suitable for children.

I do have issue though as a Mac user if the online delivery of the iPlayer content cannot be played on my Mac. Surely the 'i'Player should allow content to be played in 'i'Tunes or the 'i'Pod ;)

I filled in the Questionnaire on the site linked above and made sure to emphasise that point throughout.

Michael Ker
2007-02-25 04:37:47
The "at the trust web site" link is giving a 404 error. ....

There is a petition at

which should of course be signed. This stinks!!!

2007-02-25 13:32:24
Michael: thanks for the tip - broken link has been fixed