I love BBC radio drama and have done since I was a teenager. If you’re reading this, I guess you love the radio too.
But I have a life; it is rarely possible for me to listen to a play at the time it is broadcast.
In the pre-internet days I used a cassette deck linked to a time switch to record the programmes I wanted so that I could listen to them at a time that suited me.
Then, in due course, came ‘Listen Again’ (now the iPlayer) which allowed you to stream programmes on your computer for up to 7 days after they were broadcast. A revolution.
But circumstances change. I grew up. I acquired a family which now includes a two year old grand-daughter. Suddenly I was finding that the 7 days the BBC allowed to listen to a programme was not always sufficient. And I moved to a rural area with such slow internet speeds that even streaming 48kbps radio was a bit hit and miss.
We had Sky so I started using the Sky+ box to record the programmes I wanted. Cue the kids complaining that I was listening to the radio through the tv when they wanted to watch something.
So I went back to the internet and looked around. I found Matt Robinson’s Radio Downloader programme. This wasn’t endorsed by the BBC but it did what it said on the tin. It was an absolute gem of a programme. It worked in the background downloading the required (radio) programmes whilst you were listening to something else; it converted them to MP3 so they could be played on portable devices. It even had a ‘series link’ type function so that new episodes of an on going series would be downloaded automatically.
This rapidly became the most used piece of software on my computer. Until Friday that is…
Matt reported on his website that at the request of the BBC he has had to remove that ability to download BBC programmes. The BBC cited piracy concerns. But is that really a problem with news, factual and drama? I wouldn’t think there was a big black market for pirated editions of the Afternoon Drama or, even, The Archers.
I think for the real answer we have to look at the BBC’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide and in particular its audiobook division, Audio Go. For the last few months Audio Go has been offering selected BBC radio programmes for download…at a cost.
And on Twiiter, BBC Radio Forum (not affiliated to the BBC) has said ‘in last couple of weeks there’s been noticeable increase in plugs for buying audio between progs’.
So there you have it. The BBC has pulled the plug on a service that its customers found useful. Remember, these programmes were funded from the licence fee which most of us pay.
We have paid for these programmes to be made, so should the BBC be restricting when and how we listen to them?
There are, of course, other ways of time shifting radio but none are as simple and as useful as Matt Robinson’s Radio Downloader.
Matt, I salute you.
And BBC, I regret that I will not be listening to as many of your lovely programmes in the future.
UPDATE: 1/10/2014 Having used other programmes for the last year or so, I am now using get_iplayer. Not as good as Radio Downloader but it does the job very well…and it also allows you do download BBC television programmes.
UPDATE: 22/10/2014 I have seen reports that some radio programmes are not able to be downloaded using get_iplayer. I have experienced this problem with Tommies on BBC Radio 4.
I don’t know if this is a problem with get_iplayer or if the BBC is experimenting with blocking downloads.
If I find out anything more, I will update this post again.
UPDATE: 8/11/2014: Well, the BBC have crippled get_iplayer.
You can still use it but now it is one download at a time rather being able to do multiple downloads at the simultaneously.
And if you do, as I do, several downloads a day, it is a lot more time consuming.