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Better access to audio/video material from BBC News Online… (+ RSS option)

UPDATE 17 Jan 2007: BBC News has now changed it’s AV offering and as such the source material for these feeds is no longer being updated. However these feeds have been deprecated for sometime, and you should check out the official BBC News AV RSS Feeds (click on the link, see the list of feeds on the right-hand-side column).

I’ve just finished the first of a series of scripts I’m working on, under the project name “Unofficial BBC News Labs”.

The first of these scripts is “BBC News AV Flattener”. In a nutshell it enables you to view the latest news from BBC News in Audio Video via light HTML pages rather than being forced into viewing them in the “BBC News Player”. There is also a syndication option via an RSS feed.

Many would argue that the official “BBC News Player”, being a frames-based proposition in a popup with HTML embedded player, is a little “backwards”. I couldn’t possibly comment, but what I will say is that I built the News and Sport players to meet the editorial requirements and overall departmental objectives I was given.

This is my opportunity to (begin to) offer what I what I would have produced given completely free reign of the editorial and graphic design brief. In particular, I am looking achieve something which focuses more on stripped-down-ultra-quick-access, better accessibility for those with assistive technology and syndication/news-reader uses (ie the rss feed)

The key benefit here is that you can view the media files in your native player rather than an HTML embedded console.

View the files I’m outputting (sorry, a nice index page is coming!)

Download the source file for the PHP script – GPL

Have fun, and let me know what you all think…

Disclaimer: This script is in no way connected to the BBC’s official output. Work produced on this script is strictly my own intellectual property produced in my own time, mingled with open source code from the open source community. All text, assets and news material are taken from the publicly available html and xml pages produced by BBC News Interactive. I make no guarantees for the accuracy, availability and timeliness of any of these services – on this front you will always be better served using the BBC News website directly.

Published in BBC News Website dotBen Interactive Systems Film Reviews Tools Uncategorized


  1. This is fab, Ben. Stripping down to the html is a far easier way to navigate around the content as well as pulling it into my reader. It also shows how variable the different players can be – the default settings on my Real player play out the bb stream as a series of stills whilst the Windows Media player plays like ‘proper’ video only to require lots of pauses to buffer.
    Suggestions: Could you rank your feeds according to their popularity ie number of times the file is being served up? Any chance of getting your colleagues in sport to give you their feeds too?

  2. Anonymous Anonymous

    I built the sport console too, it’s all from the same templates. I’m sure I’ll be producing a sport version very soon 😉

  3. Interesting stuff Ben. I personally think this is a step in the right direction, however the whole enclosure (podcasting) idea is really kicking in now. And maybe that might be a better way in the future.

    I mean RSS 2.0 has many ways to deal with extra content, beyond using the links. I understand why you have choosen that way, but come on enclosures are a good idea?

    On the whole, good stuff…

    I agree, I think podcasting is certainly another thing we need to look at. I’ve already had an oppotunity to discuss this with the BBC News Interactive management team. The problem is that the current BBC-wide audio/video strategy is to stream media rather make it available for download… That obviously negates any possibility to podcast at this time.

    I’m sure someone could investigate “ripping” the audio news summary stream [real media] but I fear, as a BBC employee like yourself Ian, that would be pushing the tollerance of my contract to far.


  4. No agreed, I kinda of keep wanting to shake the BBC sometimes. We broadcast, its what we do best, lets go and broadcast! But of course its never that simple, as i’ve learned.

    When i think of podcasting, i also think beyond AV content, and extended it out to almost any content. Worth listening to this – – if you have not already.

    But as you’ve idenified, there is already a underground scene for ripping streams and making them available to others. I’m sure our content is very valued in the underground.

  5. Waldo Waldo

    Out of curiosity only (of course), where might I find these underground methods of ripping streamed video?
    Secondly, could this method be used legally for downloading to view on a very old laptop with little processing power or memory?

  6. You might find something called streambox vcr (google/on afterdawn)… The only legal usage is timeshift, i.e. saving something that you would otherwise have watched. This is also the only legitimate usage for a normal VCR too, and covers only one viewing, after which case you are acting illegally. (Whether anyone agrees with that or not is their choice ;))

  7. klira klira

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