No more BBC HD on iPlayer?

Andy Bircumshaw andy at
Thu Dec 16 03:35:33 EST 2010

On 15/12/2010, at 9:43pm, Shevek wrote:
> On 15 December 2010 17:22, Shevek <shevek at> wrote:
>> Am I missing something, or have the BBC stopped putting HD content from the
>> BBC HD channel (simulcast on BBC Four) on iPlayer.
>> For example, last weekend's Macbeth was shown on both BBC Four and BBC HD
>> and yet is only available in flashvhigh  on iPlayer.
>> Whereas Graham Norton which was on both BBC One and BBC One HD has the
>> flashhd mode available.
> Hmm, I've been looking into this a bit more and it appears to be selective.
> Some BBC Four / BBC HD programmes are getting the HD treatment on
> iPlayer - The Art Of Germany for example (attached --info)

There's two aspects to this. 

Firstly, yes, the BBC *are* selective about what they show in HD. I don't know that I've ever seen any movies available in HD, and other shows (regular TV drama series, for instance) seem to be on HD on their first run, but not on repeats.

I imagine the lack of HD movies is to appease the licensors, although it's a bit ridiculous as you could get the same show just fine if you had a satellite dish and a PVR (e.g. MythTV). I think the quality might be even better that way, as iPlayer's HD is 720p, whereas I think the satellite broadcasts are 1080. (1080i?)

The second aspect is that the BBC are absolutely rubbish at posting recordings on iPlayer properly. Sometimes their transcoding jobs fail to complete, other times the show is available on the iPlayer website for viewing but with the "download" button missing. In these cases the programme will not be available for download via get_iplayer (at least not using `--tvmode flashhd,flashvhigh,flashhigh,flashstd,flashnormal`).

For example, last week episode 3  ("Tibet") of the series "Wild China" [1] was not available. No episodes *at all* of "Lost Land of the Tiger" [2] were available - on the BBC's website it simply said "this content doesn't seem to be working at the moment". Of the series "The Indian Doctor", [3] episodes 2 & 5 were available in HD, the remainder were not. 

I can't immediately find any current shows suffering from missing HD or vhigh versions, but I'm sure there must be some. One could write a parser to identify them fairly easily - I'll be first in line to do that, when we see how this whole Project Canvas / YouView thing [4] pans out.

There is a mechanism for reporting missing programmes to the BBC, but it's utter rubbish. I think that it can trigger manual intervention and the show becoming available, but my experience has been that you get an email from a support sub-contractor in India 3 weeks later, saying "sorry, that show has expired now, anyway".

What you're supposed to do is go to this page:
and then follow the link to the "Contact Us" form and *select "programme availability" as the query*, giving the full name and the webpage (URL) of the programme.

Obviously you have to lie and say you're using the BBC website (under Mac or Windows) and trying to view or download the programme - really, you do need to try that in order to state whether the problem is that HD is completely unavailable or whether it's merely that the HD button is missing. 

Not only the fact that the BBC largely (if not completely) ignore these reports, but the form is overly complex and buggy. I would *love* it for users to try reporting these failures regularly to the BBC, but I honestly don't have the patience for it myself. I am quite happy to spend far too much time posting to this list, but trying to help the BBC improve their service just seems to be a frustrating and fruitless experience. 

A second alternative is to post on the BBC message board in the "Service updates" or "TV" sub-forums. Ridiculously, this is 8am - 10pm only, every post is moderated and they censor your message if you're vocal about your complaint (they claim profanity, even where none exists). But at least this means that some BBC employee does read of the problem - hopefully the iPlayer team is actually playing a little attention to these forums - and it's *much* quicker (a surprising amount) to post about a problem there than to fill in the stupid "contact us" form. There are some surprisingly competent guys posting there on a regular basis about their issues with the official client.



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