Sunday, March 12, 2006

How to cope without British TV and Radio: Part II

Here's another guest entry from Mark:

Just before Christmas, I did a guest blog here on How to cope without British TV and Radio, the gist of which was to lay out some of my strategies for managing without our much loved British television and radio. Well, the quest continues and since December I have discovered some more strategies and some more programmes. This first follow-up post discusses the phenomenon of watching BBC news and politics on-line.

I mentioned last time that one could watch Question Time (Thursdays, BBC1, 10.30 pm) either live or archived. Likewise Andrew Marr's Sunday AM. Both of those are still regulars for me, and if you are doing housework while you watch them, as I do, the squidgy quality of the picture doesn't matter too much (though I hope the day comes when seriously good quality video links for these are available from the BBC). More recently, I came to realize that you can also watch the main BBC news broadcasts on-line too. I have never been a big fan of television news, which to me seems even more like The Day Today now than ever, but there is something strangely comforting about seeing the news, especially when watching it live, especially when you catch a little of the BBC1 announcer just before it starts. To receive it, just go to the BBC News Front Page and click the video link in the bottom right hand corner. When it's on live (1 pm, 6 pm and 10 pm GMT on weekdays), you'll see "Live Video" there. When it's not on live, the video link will take you to the most recent major bulletin. As with the other on-line BBC news programmes, I right click my little Real Video screen and go to Zoom / Full Screen.

My guess is that if one were to spend a bit of money ($39.95 a year), one could pick up those bulletins in glorious broadband quality -- see Broadband video news, but it is not quite clear to me whether the Broadband news from the BBC does provide one with the regular BBC1 bulletins, or whether it is sourced from BBC News 24, BBC World and the like. There's a free trial available (see previous link), though, so I might give that a try and report back.

Jeremy Paxman in Newsnight
One of the most valuable programmes available on-line, though, is Newsnight. That was always pretty much a staple for me in the UK, perhaps because I often found myself doing the washing up at 10.30 pm. Like Sunday AM and Question Time, Newsnight is available live (weeknights at 10.30 pm). And they then make each programme available for 24 hours after the broadcast, until the next one. Newsnight Review is not included in the live package on the Friday (it stops at the half-way point), but the good news is that you can pick this up too from Saturday's at noon on the Newsnight Review page.

You can also catch The Daily Politics on-line (Daily Politics website here). The site describes the programme as "available in beautiful broadband" but the link in fact gives one the standard squidgy real video [See Updates and Comments below (Ed.)]. As with several of the other programmes, you can watch live or watch the archive up to a day or so afterwards. I am hoping that eventually the BBC will add This Week too, which was one I always watched when in England; I was never in for The Daily Politics, so that one is new to me. On Wednesdays, one can catch PM's Questions as part of the show.

Also available is The Politics Show but that is not one I have dipped into yet.

Oddly, there is nowhere that I can find that provides a list of what the BBC provides by way of free on-line video. On the whole, you have to stumble across it or go searching for it. So here is a list of the programmes I am aware of so far:

Live, weekdays, 10.30 pm, and archived for 24 hours

Newsnight Review
Archived each Saturday noon (not available live on Friday)

Question Time
Live, Thursdays, 10.30 pm, and archived for a week

Sunday AM with Andrew Marr
Live, Sundays, 9 am, and archived for a week

BBC News
Live, weekdays, 1 pm, 6 pm, 10 pm, and archived until the next one appears

The Daily Politics
Live, weekdays 12-12.30 pm, Wednesdays 11.30-1.30 pm, and archived until the next one.

The Politics Show Live, Sundays, 12 pm, and archived for a week

March 14, 2006

On the question of the alleged "beautiful broadband" quality of the Daily Politics feed, an email received today from the BBC says, "Hmmm. Are you saying that it's the same as when the DP used to launch in a standalone Real stream? You ought to be seeing a high-quality stream (same as Newsnight) in the BBC Video Player. We've just increased the quality of the feed by quite a great deal, but if your browser has stored the old settings for the Video Player, you may not be seeing it." Well, it looks a bit crummy to me, at best only marginally better than the BBC News feed. On the possibility of a feed being added for This Week, the same email reports the good news that there are plans, "as soon as the technical boffins buy a new piece of kit! Watch this space..." Will do!

March 14, 2006 -- Update

It turns out that the person who emailed me at the BBC was right -- a bit of searching and you can indeed get the Daily Politics in "beautiful broadband". And not just The Daily Politics but lots of other BBC content too. But it's not a
question of changing your settings; it is a question of finding the right way in. You need to find the right door. If you click on any of those links above, they will open by default in the crummy old squidgy format with poor sound quality. To get these in beautiful broadband, and I have tried multiple different ways to do this, it seems that the most straightforward is the following:
  1. Go to the BBC News Player. NB: Bookmark this link. This is the key. I have placed it as a button at the top of my Firefox browser (drag the bookmark to the links bar).

  2. On the right of the News Player, you will see a series of links. Either scroll to the bottom and click on "Programmes" or hit the drop down menu at the top headed "Watch more video news", and hit "Programmes".

  3. This will bring up a list of all the complete programmes that are available in glorious broadbrand. They are, in order, Newsnight, Panorama, Politics Show, Question Time, Sunday AM, The Daily Politics and This World. Essentially, these are the ones I had listed in the original post, with the addition of Panorama and This World.

  4. Click on the programme title and it should begin playing. You can then point your browser at the screen and choose full screen mode, double mode etc.

  5. When you have been used to watching this stuff in the ultra-low-tech non-broadband format, this is a revelation!


Jonny Goodacre said...

The problem is that this is still only the BBC ... can you get other output as well? Sky News is better than BBC News 24 and I would still rather watch Channel Four News over any of the BBC news programmes, with the possible exception of Newsnight. One of the more bizarre channels is 'Euronews' which runs a portfolio of quite different European news stories in English. There's excellent coverage of wider European politics which hardly gets a look-in on any of the UK channels but I have to say about 99% of the UK population would probably find it the most boring news channel on earth! I quite like it though.

Viola said...

Good points. Perhaps I may be able to get Mark to do a follow-up post, outlining non-BBC stuff.

Alan Connor said...

That's a shame if the Daily Politics is still coming up in narrowband on your machine: other viewers have had this problem, then cracked it by adjusting the "Change how I view or hear this" options in the bottom left of the News Player.

Other programmes are slowly coming to broadband, and I hope you'll be happy to see that This Week is up and running:

Viola said...


Thanks for pointing this out. Unfortunately, just "adjusting the 'Change how I view or hear this'" option didn't seem to work for us -- it didn't seem to do anything. I'm not sure why this might be -- perhaps because we are not in the UK?

The steps outlined in our second update did, however, allow us to view broadband streams.

Thanks also for pointing out that This Week is up and running. We were aware of this and are very much enjoying Diane and Michael cozying up on the sofa.

If you have any more advice, I'd be glad to hear it.