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Rights Problems Cripple the BBC World Service's Internet Feed

One aspect of the BBC's move to the Internet in America and Oceania that seems to have been overlooked so far is that of broadcasting rights. On any given weekend, the BBC World Service broadcasts hours of sports to the world. Except that they can't do it on the Internet. Tuning in to the World Service's Internet audio feed on Saturday, June 2, we found that the program that was audible on shortwave, "Sportsworld", which contains play-by-play commentary from a soccer (football) match of the day, among other things, was not available. Instead, a female voice repeated the following announcement every ten seconds:

"Due to restrictions imposed by the rights holders, BBC World Service is unable to offer the current program on the Internet."

(Hear the announcement in MP3 format, 96 KBytes)

With the moves of organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Association of Federated Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) increasingly asserting their rights and forcing radio stations in America to either remove commercials with AFTRA actors from their net streams or pay usurious fees for the right to air music, an plausible alternate future to the one the BBC proposes is one with increasingly large holes in the BBC's schedule as represented online.

Given the fact that sports programming is already missing from the Internet stream that is supposed to replace shortwave, this is not a far-fetched scenario. With just the many hours of sports programming missing, this is yet another example of how the Internet is not an adequate replacement for the full BBC World Service we currently receive via shortwave.