Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, outlined plans for the archive when he addressed the 2011 Radio Festival earlier this month. “Imagine a world in which all the content the BBC created was available online. A sort of 'Audiopedia' that would give listeners access to much of our speech content and which listeners would be able to search by programme, subject or person," Thompson said.
Work 'already started'
Thompson added that the process of making some of the BBC's radio archive available had already begun, with around 20 hours of radio shows being added every week. There are already 500 episodes of the Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs (http://bbc.in/discs279) available to download, and Thompson said that another 500 will be added by the end of the year. You can also stream (but not download) every episode of Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time (http://bbc.in/time279). The BBC hasn't said whether Audiopedia will contain downloadable or streamed radio shows, but it's likely that it'll be a mixture of the two.
However, Audiopedia is far from complete. Tim Davie, director of BBC Audio and Music, conceded that there was still a long way to go, with details such as the presentation of Audiopedia still undecided. "The BBC is working on how best to present Audiopedia at the moment. but most people will probably access the new on-demand content via other pieces of related content they are already listening to across the BBC website," Davie said.
Other broadcasters could join
Thompson hopes that Audiopedia will also contain radio content from broadcasters other than the BBC.
He said: "As far as possible, we want to share the technologies and audience learning behind projects like these with the rest of the radio industry: we know that few, perhaps no commercial broadcasters, can call on the scientists, engineers and audience specialists which are at our disposal."
He pointed to the success of the on-demand radio-streaming service Radioplayer (www.radioplayer.co.uk) as an example of how large media projects can be useful to audiences as well as to the BBC and other broadcasters. "Radioplayer now has 6.7 million users," said Thompson, "all of whom can search and switch between BBC and commercial stations and appreciate a radio experience that combines the best of modern technology while showcasing the breadth of UK radio."
Will you soon need to pay a license fee for the iPlayer?
The government may consider making it Illegal to watch the BBC iPlayer without a TV license. At the moment, you only need a TV license if you watch BBC programmes as they are broadcast live, whether through a TV or online. This means you don't need a license if you only watch programmes on-demand on the iPlayer. However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that it’s "aware of developing technologies and the changing viewing habits of those who watch television programmes". This is likely to mean that it wants to extend the license fee to cover shows watched on-demand. The BBC, however, said that it doesn't see any need for changes to the license fee and didn't plan to call for a change to the scope of its license-fee remit until the next Charter renewal in 2016.