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iPlayer Radio (Previously 'Listen Again') Edit

This service provided by the BBC at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/radio allows most BBC radio programmes to be streamed in full for a week after their broadcast. The iPlayer radio service is currently integrated with the BBC's Television version of the iPlayer.

Example

The 'Any Answers' Listen Again page although no longer linked, still works

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/networks/radio4/aod.shtml?radio4/anyanswers

On 21st July 2008 the default method for users to listen to radio programmes was changed from Listen Again to the iPlayer. The change was unlikely to be an aggressive action by the BBC to prevent users saving streams, instead a series of reasons were given including, ease of use and less reliance on the cumbersome RealPlayer program.

iPlayer RTMP/Flash Radio StreamsEdit

See Flash iPlayer.

iPlayer RealAudio Radio StreamsEdit

Note: The following still works as of 2008-09-05. It seems that audio is much slower at being transcoded into Real Audio format for some programmes, however.

Note Jan2010, RealAudio being phased out (see discussion) by BBC iPlayer

Radio programmes are available to stream in two formats, either a RealPlayer '.ra' stream or a '.mp3' stream through the RTMP protocol in a flash player.

The RealPlayer streams used by the Listen Again service were available from the as a '.rpm' file (a '.ram' file was previously used) which contains the URL for the '.ra' stream. The '.ra' streams have a 64 kbps bitrate. The 'rtsp://' part indicates that the RTSP protocol is used.

It is believed that the '.ra' streams will still be supported despite no longer being the default user service, this is likely to be since the BBC may have pre-existing infrastructure based on the '.ra' streams.

Example

The 'Any Answers' '.rpm' link,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/aod/shows/rpms/radio4/anyanswers.rpm

Which contains the URL for the '.ra' stream,

rtsp://rmv8.bbc.net.uk/radio4/1400_sat.ra?BBC-UID=8488c8da3172db60d916ab657131d78ee8798b49a0a0a17663c52c74240487b6&SSO2-UID=

Using the '.ram' extension offers the same result, but the streams are now offered as '.rpm'.

The '.ra' stream can be split into two parts,

rtsp://rmv8.bbc.net.uk/radio4/1400_sat.ra?BBC-UID=8488c8da3172db60d916ab657131d78ee8798b49a0a0a17663c52c74240487b6&SSO2-UID=

The actual '.ra' stream and a BBC-UID

The '.ra' stream can then be saved and converted.

A program such as MPlayer can be used to save the stream,

MPlayer http://www.mplayerhq.hu/design7/dload.html

mplayer -dumpstream "rtsp://rmv8.bbc.net.uk/radio4/1400_sat.ra" -bandwidth 5000000 -dumpfile "stream.dump"

Where, -bandwidth 5000000 allows MPlayer to fill its cache quicker, giving faster downloading of the stream and -dumpfile indicates the output file for the stream to be dumped to.

The saved stream can then be converted using a program such as FFmpeg,

FFmpeg http://ffmpeg.mplayerhq.hu/

ffmpeg -i "stream.dump" -ab 64k -ac 2 -y "Stream [%date:/=-%].mp3" 

or Lame http://lame.sourceforge.net/index.php

lame stream.dump outfile.mp3 

MPlayer can be used to both save and convert the stream to '.wav'.

 mplayer -bandwidth 5000000 -ao pcm:waveheader:fast:file=anyanswers.wav rtsp://rmv8.bbc.net.uk/radio4/sat1402.ra

The iPlayer website can be used to retrieve information on the programme and both '.mp3' and '.ram' streams.

Example

From the programme's iPlayer page URL the programme's PID can be retrieved,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/<PID>

The PID can be used to open the 'MediaSelector' XML file

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/4/mtis/stream/<PID>

Containing a link to the programme's '.ram' file and information on the programme's '.mp3' stream

The Beebotron service (http://beebotron.org/) can be used to find the '.ra' link for programmes harvested from iPlayer and Listen Again. There's a lite version for mobile browsing at http://beebotron.org/indexlite.html. The sites http://dave.org.uk/streams and http://www.comfyyoghurt.co.uk/bbc_streams/ previously performed this from the Listen Again service.

Alternatively, the iPlayer Converter website (http://www.iplayerconverter.co.uk) allows users to browse BBC Radio schedules with clickable links to RealAudio streams for each program.

Many BBC radio programmes offer podcasts, with a directory at (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/podcasts/directory/) and a cover-flow version (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/labs/podcasts/.)

There is a linux script that will download iplayerconvert links and turn them into mp3 files.

iPlayer RTSP Real Audio File Address FormatEdit

All of the BBC's RTSP (RealAudio) streams were discontinued in May 2010, as part of the BBC's migration to Macromedia Flash.

iPlayer MP3 Radio StreamsEdit

The MP3 streams, intended for the iPhone, can be obtained as follows:

  1. Get the PID from the iPlayer site (e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b007jxrs/ )
  2. Obtain the version pid using this method
  3. Follow the same method of download used for the IPhone H.264 version

Downloading Programs Edit

  • Linuxcentre's get_iplayer (Cross-Platform) - Searches and indexes radio, podcast and television programmes using iPlayer XML feeds. It can download native and RTMP/flash based mp3, aac, realaudio and wma radio programmes (rtsp audio streams are transcoded to mp3 on-the-fly).
  • Linuxcentre's get_iplayer PVR Manager (Linux/Unix/OSX) - Web based Front-end to get_iplayer. It can also act as a HTTP streaming proxy for iphone/RTMP/flash radio and tv programmes. Supports m3u and opml playlist generation for Squeezebox and VLC integration.
  • ListenLater ( OSX and Linux only) -A Firefox extension which saves iPlayer Radio audio streams as MP3.
  • radio2daap - Programme that lets you listen to iPlayer Radio (using the RTMP streams) in iTunes.nsion
  • FlashGot for Firefox (cross platform) using mplayer, ffmpeg and lame (as described above)
    Add a custom download manager to wrap all the above commands (download->convert to mp3->tag) into a single click from the Beebotron;
    e.g. in win32 use the following .bat file as the 'download manager', command line arguments: "[URL] [COMMENT] ":
@echo OFF
SETLOCAL ENABLEEXTENSIONS
 
:: This is where mp3 will be saved (no spaces allows in path)
set mp3dir=C:\Radio\
 
:: Reject invalid links
if not %~x1==.ra (
goto error
) else (
echo Downloading %~2 with Mplayer!)
 
:: Strip invaild characters
set fname=%2
set fname=%fname:|=%
set fname=%fname:\=%
set fname=%fname:/=%
set fname=%fname::=%
set fname=%fname:<=%
set fname=%fname:>=%
set fname=%fname:?=%
set fname=%fname:"=%
 
:: Download .ra, convert to .mp3, delete .ra
cd %~dp0
MPLAYER -bandwidth 99999999 -noframedrop -prefer-ipv4 -dumpfile "%mp3dir%%~nx1" -dumpstream %1
FFMPEG -i "%mp3dir%%~nx1" -f wav - | LAME -b 112 -f --tg Podcast --tt %2 --ta "BBC Radio" --ty 2009 --ti "bbc_radio_icon.png" - "%mp3dir%%fname%.mp3"
del "%mp3dir%%~nx1"
goto end

:error
echo That link is not a realaudio file, Press any key to exit.
:end
pause

BBC radio logo for cover art: Bbc radio icon

Comparison Table Edit

Reception Method Access Method Downloadable? Quality Codec Bitrate
Flash player RTMP No MP3 80 - 128kbps 44.1kHz Stereo
Flash player RTMP No AAC/AAC+ 64 - 192kbps 44.1kHz Stereo
RealAudio stream RTSP Yes RealAudio 64kbps Mono / 128kbps Stereo
iPhone MP3 stream HTTP Yes MP3 80 - 128kbps 44.1kHz Stereo

iPlayer Radio Updates Edit

June 26th 2008Edit

The BBC released its new beta of the iPlayer. This includes new radio features. The radio features use MP3 over RTMP in much the same way as the iPlayer TV, which streams flash video over RTMP. Media selector URLs are still available (see above.)

get_iplayer (see above) uses the new iplayer Atom feeds to search and index the available BBC Radio (and TV) programmes.

September 23rd 2008Edit

The iPhone specific website started serving radio programmes as MP3 over http. On initial investigation from intercepting the TCP traffic from an iPhone, the method for downloading is very similar to method(s) already in use for the H264 video programmes.

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