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Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

CBeebies iPlayer, and Why I Think an OU iPlayer Presence Would be a “Good Thing”

Last week it was a present for the beta junkies (“BBC iPlayer Desktop Application“), this week Auntie Beeb has a present for the kids: CBBC iPlayer (announced here: CBBC iPlayer press release; a good discussion about the rationale for why there is a need for such a thing can be found here: New CBBC iPlayer designed just for kids).

The CBBC iPlayer offers a a great window onto BBC “pre-watershed” content and appears to be targeted at the under 12s. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming weeks, particularly insofar as the sort of “advertising” that gets pushed to the kiddies (such as the interactive/gaming content).

(I also wonder if a CBBC iPlayer desktop is on the cards? And what would it mean for the BBC to effectively have a downloader application – for games as well as broadcast content? – on a kid’s PC?)

Of course, I couldn’t but tweet about where an OU iPlayer might be, provoking a couple of reactions:

So in what may be my last post of the year, and what may be my last rambling thoughts on iPlayer (depending on how the triage I’m going to have do on my interests in the New Year goes) here’s a quick core dump of some of my OU iPlayer related thoughts (which are all my own opinion, do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or even myself, etc etc):

  • as well as recently broadcast, 7 day watch again content, we have access to good quality video material (in production terms, as well as in an editorial sense) that has already been rights cleared (e.g. on iTunes, YouTube, the OU podcast site, etc etc);
  • the OU has been co-producing content with the BBC for many years; much of the recent output has been prime-time or early evening content on BBC1 and BBC2; that is, it’s quite watchable, general interest programming:-) If the BBC sorts out making archive content available via iPlayer, then we’ll have a reasonable amount of back catalogue material across science and technology, the arts, health and so on that could be used to populate an OU iPlayer channel.
  • OU/BBC rights is one of the many sub-areas of rights clearance I don’t understand. What we can use seems to depend, at least in part, on some or all of the following: how we make content available (public website, course website (password protected, registered students only), course DVD, streamed from course website, download from course website); what content we make available (full programme, fragments of programme (and then it goes into things like: no package longer than x mins duration, total duration of separate packages not to exceed y% of a z minute long programme)), what programmes we actually want to show students (OU fully funded BBC programmes, partially funded, etc etc); what territories the course is sold into; etc etc; or maybe it doesn’t, maybe it’s simpler than that and i just not keep hearing the heuristic I keep being told!

    BBC iPlayer has got DRM sorted (e.g. as discussed by Anthony Rose in Introducing BBC iPlayer Desktop for Mac, Linux and PC), which goes someway to making it easier to use the content becauase the technology can handle who sees what, when and where… (i.e. let the technology handle some of the issues).

    So anyway, anyway, it seems to me that having an OU iPlayer would let us test different things:

    • streaming content of OU rights held BBC content (fully funded content) as well as partially funded content and all other BBC content;
    • streaming content of OU rights cleared video assets produced by other means (e.g. content that now appears on Youtube etc.); the common pipeline could just use iPlayer as another output channel; (i.e. testing partnership distribution models);
    • streaming content on public websites (e.g. Platform), public open licensed sites (e.g. OpenLearn), public OU/BBC sites (e.g. Open2, which runs under a BBC editorial policy), and reasonably strongly authenticated sites: OU staff intranet, OU registered students, OU students registered on a particular course); bear in minds we have rights to use BBC content with our students under certain conditions anyway; so we can test some of the techie stuff knowing that other agreements are in place regarding some of the rights issues.

    An outcome I’d be keen to see from this would be a no-brainer way of looking up a programme on the BBC programme catalogue and having a little pop-up tell me exactly how I could use the content in an OU context.

  • iPlayer has the iPlayer desktop – i.e. a download client; and the ability to embed the player in third party sites (though this is only enabled for some content); hmm – so embedding is controllable – which is also a Good Thing?!;-)
  • the recent PSB review suggested that the BBC was considering how partners could get involved in the whole iPlayer thang: “iPlayer: the initial phase of this partnership would be with the PSBs. However, the partnership could well open out to other public service bodies with access to audiovisual content (e.g. the Tate, British Film Institute, British Library etc.). An open attitude to content syndication both to and from the service would also spread benefits more broadly across the industry” Public service partnerships: Helping sustain UK PSB, page 18). Who’s missing from that list? After all, if the Tate state “broadcasting” through iPlayer, then, err, why can’t the OU?
  • if this is true – BBC pilots iPlayer content sharing with Telegraph Media Group – I find it amusing that people would be able to see clips of OU/BBC fully funded content (that is, content that the OU paid for and owns the rights to) on the telegraph.co.uk domain (as well as on the BBC Youtube site!) whereas we appear to struggle to show the same content on the OU public domain or the public open2.net site (which is run according to BBC editorial guidelines).
  • Enough…

Personal rant over… The above is all probably terribly naive (my understanding of what DRM can manage for us in a techie way), and maybe completely wrong (particularly on OU rights to reuse of BBC content), but anway… it’s MHO…

And now? I’ve nowt more t’say on’t matter…

Written by Tony Hirst

December 22, 2008 at 7:48 pm

Posted in BBC

5 Responses

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  1. Love this idea. And a great example, I think, of where the BBC (and other rights-holders) should be pushed to be much less timid about the rights issues. The public value argument for freeing OU content must be relatively easy to make. Stakeholders (students, educators, employers and delivery partners) should really get behind this idea and push for early implementation. I wonder if Teachers TV could be enoouraged to join in too? Their content is already unencumbered and an iPlayer interface to their wealth of free-to-use video would be a big improvement.

    Steve Bowbrick

    January 2, 2009 at 4:26 pm

  2. @steve I hadn’t thought of Teachers TV (didn’t its management go out to tender last year? I think the OU was in one of the unseuccessful consortia that pitvhed to run it? (Ah yes – http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/mar/14/independentproductioncompanies.television?gusrc=rss&feed=media )

    What would a fusion of Teachers TV and the BBC Learning Zone Broadband “Class Clips” be like, I wonder, as an educatioanl iPlayer channel? ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/ )

    Tony Hirst

    January 2, 2009 at 8:21 pm

  3. [...] Hirst at the Open University suggests creating a dedicated iPlayer for their educational content. Nice [...]

  4. [...] even via our new web vehicles (Youtube, iTunesU, OU podcasts etc.)? I’d quite like to see an OU iPlayer, partly because it allows us to go where iPlayer goes, but I also wonder: do we need to keep an eye [...]

  5. [...] So how would it be different on an OU iPlayer (cf. CBeebies iPlayer, and Why I Think an OU iPlayer Presence Would be a “Good Thing”)? [...]


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