A while back, the BBC approached Canonical about providing seamless access to unencumbered BBC content for all Ubuntu users (in the UK and elsewhere). We agreed to approach this by way of a plugin for our primary media player, Totem, and asked Collabora Multimedia to do the plugin development work.

The results are in what will shortly be released as Ubuntu 8.10, and are looking really rather good. At the moment the content available from the BBC at present is mostly audio, but support for video is in place and the feed is expected to be fleshed out here over time. We have a genre classification scheme in place, and will see how that scales as the amount of available content grows. The code has been submitted upstream, although there are still a few issues to work out there.

This is not the same thing as iPlayer; all the content available here is DRM-free. Some of it is geographically restricted to the UK, and these restrictions are handled on the server side to make sure that the client is free of encumbrances.

Christian Schaller from Collabora posted about this a little while ago. Since then, the UI has been improved somewhat and some I/O issues have been fixed to the point where we felt comfortable enabling the BBC plugin (as well as the YouTube plugin) by default in Ubuntu 8.10. Here’s a screenshot of the current interface:


This is exciting stuff with a lot of potential. To try it out, run Applications -> Sound & Video -> Movie Player and select the “BBC” entry from the drop-down box labelled “Playlist”. If you find bugs, please report them!