in Workplace

CBC Radio Two: now in streaming MP3

Those of you who have been following the CBC Radio Two revitalization have noticed that, buried amid all the controversy about juggling classical music so that it only appears between 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., CBC launched four web-only streams on Monday: Classical, Jazz, Canadian Songwriters, and Canadian Classical. These are available twenty-four hours a day, just like any other Internet radio station.

What you may not have noticed is that the streaming source is actually a variable-bit-rate (VBR) MP3 stream, hosted by Abacast. The intention was always to provide the direct streaming URLs so listeners could listen to the streams using whatever players they want, but in the rush to get the streams out, that detail was somehow buried. My colleague Peter Cook in Radio Music has kindly provided the direct links to the PLS files in his blog entry, so stream away! You do need a high-speed link though; the stream is VBR but roughly 192 kbps, so dialup won’t cut it.

I should note that the only player which does not play VBR MP3 streams well is Windows Media Player. Sadly, WM’s VBR implementation is broken, so the stream will almost never play. Recommended players that I would use on a Windows platform are either iTunes, Winamp, VLC., or even Helix (formerly Real) Player.

On a related note about Radio Two, I read this press release from the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and just have to laugh. I don’t want to beat up on Friends too much because I think they are a valuable organization and help keep the CBC honest, but seriously — do they understand technology? The press release is written like "MTA" is an organization that CBC contracted to block e-mail complaints. Maybe they were thinking that we’ve outsourced our e-mail systems to the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority or something?

In this instance, CBC’s Jeff Keay is right — it’s an outrageous claim that CBC is specially-blocking complaints. CBC uses an enterprise-level spam filtering appliance (whose brand you could eventually deduce by looking up the hostnames of CBC’s primary and secondary mail exchangers) and as such, any “blocking” is completely automated and not biased towards any one individual or organization. Sheesh.