BBC is Blocking Google Podcasts

Posted on March 26, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Music + Videos, Smart Home with 29 Comments

The BBC has admitted that it is blocking all of its podcasts from appearing in Google Podcasts, Search, and Assistant. For some reason.

“The BBC requires platforms (such as Google’s Assistant) to meet certain conditions for BBC content to be available on their services,” a BBC statement to podnews reads. “We seek to make our content as accessible to audiences as possible, but until it can be made available in a way that meets our Terms of Use and the BBC’s Distribution Policy, certain BBC content will be unavailable through specific Google products.”

If that’s not unclear enough, the BBC has also posted a FAQ that doesn’t explain what rules Google is apparently breaking. But podnews reports that the BBC requires Google to sign a license in order to link to its podcasts and that Google must supply it with user data.

“After a consultation with Google, the BBC has no choice but to stop Google from making podcasts available via Google products,” the broadcaster explained.

But as podnews notes, licenses are not legally required for linking to content from a search engine or from other websites and the BBC’s licensing requirement is impractical.

“There are 670,000 podcasts in the current podcasting ecosystem, and any podcast app developer would be reluctant to be forced to sign tens of thousands of different licences to run a podcast app,” the site explains. “This requirement would essentially kill podcasting apps.”

Put simply, the BBC is really trying to steer its listeners to its own app, called BBC Sounds. An app that isn’t even available outside the UK.

Tagged with , , ,

Join the discussion!

BECOME A THURROTT MEMBER:

Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Register
Comments (29)

29 responses to “BBC is Blocking Google Podcasts”

  1. Stooks

    Does a search in the iOS default podcast app for "BBC" finds many BBC podcasts.


    Maybe the BBC simply does not like Google's data collection stance, since they are not pushing iOS users to their app????

  2. hoomgar

    They want user data.  That seems pretty clear.

  3. markbyrn

    ...Put simply, the BBC is really trying to steer its listeners to its own app, called BBC Sounds. An app that isn’t even available outside the UK...


    Checked the iOS podcast app and all the BBC podcasts appear. Presumably Apple got the license that BBC wants?

    • ejuly

      In reply to markbyrn: I use pocketcasts and have 5 BBC podcasts and they all still work OK. This appears to be an issue Google needs to explain about why others are OK - even Apple but not them.

      It looks to me that since Google wants you to get their own podcasts followed by others who pay - then the BBC.

  4. sentxd

    I read that this is more to do with Google not providing the listener data they want so they're pulling their podcasts for now. Essentially it does contravene the licensing terms.

    • ejuly

      In reply to sentxd:

      It is about Google adding ads - which is a no no for BBC unless they get listener data, No ads - no need for data. Which is why just about every service including PocketCasts and Apple is carrying the BBC. Neither of those provide listener data.

  5. JJanner

    I noticed back on March 22nd the BBC World Service hourly pods stopped appearing on TuneIn (22nd and earlier remained, no new ones). Started back up yesterday. Too lengthy a pause to be for technical reasons.

  6. ph-sth

    The BBC have blogged about their reasons at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/aboutthebbc/entries/d68712d7-bd24-440f-94a0-1c6a4cdee71a


    Their (stated) beef seems to be that Google is favouring their own podcast platform from search results, rather than offering equally prominent links to the previously awful but now improving BBC Sounds and other third party providers. I suppose in terms of voice searches through Google Assistant they'll be noticing that the default - without choice - will always be Google's own podcast players.


    At least I now understand why all my subscribed Podcasts disappeared at the weekend. Guess I'm moving to Castbox too, then.


    This is probably caused, to some extent, by the particular way in which the BBC is funded - directly from the UK public through a licence fee, legally enforced, but independent from Government in terms of its content, reporting and output. As a result, the BBC's governing body and constitution - the BBC Charter - will dictate how it uses what is ultimately taxpayers' money.


    When you watch or listen to a BBC programme, or view a BBC website, outside the UK, you'll likely see and hear adverts. This is a strict no-no in the UK; the BBC is not allowed to carry any third party advertising, again partly to protect its independence (for example, Top Gear can call a crap car a crap car without worrying about upsetting advertisers).


    As a result, the UK audience is the BBC's primary audience, so they'll want the data from Google I imagine to be able to assess UK-based consumption of their content and prove that it matches the requirements of the BBC Charter, that it is proving of use to the UK audience and help them determine which programmes to recommission.


    I appreciate the licence fee thing probably seems odd outside the UK, but there are the benefits it brings to independence in its news reporting and programming from government and advertisers. It enables the BBC to set a standard in broadcasting which in turn can help to improve the quality produced by other broadcasters and to experiment in new technologies. It gives it scope for an enormous range of output across television, web, radio and very specifically local broadcasting. Not having to chase ratings means they can make programmes others couldn't or wouldn't (they have a TV channel dedicated just to broadcasting the proceedings of Parliament, for instance). It's not perfect, it's easily critised, but take a step back and consider it, it's actually a remarkable body.

    • maethorechannen

      In reply to ph-sth:

      I imagine to be able to assess UK-based consumption of their content and prove that it matches the requirements of the BBC Charter


      They can already work that out with geo-fencing (something they have already used to send lower quality streams abroad). And they could use user agent strings to work out who is using BBC Sounds and whose using something else.


      PS - I'm in the UK and I think the way the BBC is funded is odd and "we do things no one else will do" is greatly overstated.

  7. robincapper

    "BBC is Blocking Google Podcast App" would be a more accurate headline. Love BBC content but their constant promo and push to the Sounds app most of the world can't get is annoying. Silly thing is I would subscribe to get their full content, autdio & video, rather than the cut down 'international' content I can get.

  8. bill_russell

    I was just starting to appreciate google podcasts app, for its simple lightweight nature (and not as barebones as its initial launch).


    I had been disillusioned with pocketcasts recently, but then I realized there hadn't been any BBC podcast updates for a while on Google podcasts. This is the only place other than podnews that even mentioned it.


    I tried Castbox which seems fine but don't bother if you think its more lightweight and simpler than Pocketcasts. There was also at least one bug with it - the controls wouldn't reliably stay in the notification shade. Also I'd like to just pay $2.99 for it but you can only do I think a pricey monthly payment, or free with ads.


    So I'm giving pocketcasts another chance. It IS in beta so I guess a few bugs can be expected, seems ok so far but they better get out of beta soon.

    I was thinking of boycotting the BBC but I really like some of their podcasts.


  9. randallcorn

    Does GDPR play anywhere in this?

  10. jbinaz

    I wish Google would stop returning BBC sites in their search results completely, just to prove a point. They won't, though, because they already are facing enough from the EU. Although if the UK is leaving the EU...


    I say this, and I don't like Google a whole lot. It just seems that the BBC's action defeats the spirit of podcasting. On the other hand, it's BBC's content, and they can do as they like, and I can see why they want the user data. From a user's perspective, though, what a pain if you have to open a different app for every podcast.


    Reminds me of Apple "owning the user" with their new news service, if that's indeed how it works.

    • jboman32768

      I wish Google would stop returning BBC sites in their search results completely, just to prove a point. They won't, though, because they already are facing enough from the EU. Although if the UK is leaving the EU...


      Hypothetically - if the BBC can drop its support for Google - why shouldn't Google be able to drop its support for the BBC?


      If Google reciprocated, and dropped all bbc.co.uk links from the search index - I'm sure this situation would be resolved very quickly.


    • Daekar

      In reply to jbinaz:

      If I had to open a different app to listen to different podcasts, I wouldn't listen to them.


      If the BBC gates its content behind its own app, that content might as well not exist. Interesting that they're picking on Google specifically, when there are Apple and Spotify to catch in the same net.

  11. jules_wombat

    Err well perhaps it is because they don't want a private company to be profiteering, or scraping valuable user data, from a [UK] public funded service.

    • Greg Green

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      Seems more like they want a share of the booty. From the article, “But podnews reports that the BBC requires Google to sign a license in order to link to its podcasts and that Google must supply it with user data.”


      I suspect BBC will sell your data as fast as google, but probably not as well.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to Jules_Wombat:

      If that's the case, they should stop using the word "podcast" to describe their content and just call them Internet radio shows. A big part of the definition of "podcast" is that they are freely distributed via RSS.

  12. stevem

    This is all from my understanding without looking up any references so might not be totally accurate.


    The BBC is funded through a license fee that everyone in the UK with a tuned TV has to pay. Therefore most of it's content is aimed at the UK. They obviously do sell TV content to other broadcasters around the world who I imagine insert ad breaks in it to fund the purchase cost. BBC Television and radio is ad free as is it's website in the UK. If you access the website from outside the UK though I belive there are ads. The BBC World Service, which is funded by UK residents for the entire world is I believe also ad free. My guess is that Google would be making these podcasts available to the entire world when they are intended only for those paying the license fee, hence the BBC has blocked Google. The BBC is likely a unique case in the world in how it is funded so probably has restrictions about content that commercial companies wouldn't.

    • Simon Flynn

      In reply to SteveM:

      The BBC puts ads in some/all of its podcasts when they're played outside the UK. A separate BBC entity (BBC Worldwide I think?) sells these things so it doesn't interfere with the whole BBC Charter and ads/promotions/making money being a no go. Plus you can still listen to BBC podcasts anywhere in the world, just not in the Google app. The reason they're giving seems odd though. Hopefully they'll change their mind.

      • maethorechannen

        In reply to SimonF:

        It's odd to the point where I start to doubt that it's actually the whole truth. For example, I very much doubt that Castbox and Pocketcasts have signed licensing agreements and are handing over user data.


        I'm wondering if the actual problem is that the Google powered speakers aren't firing up the BBC skill when asked to play BBC content the way Alexa switched over several months back.

  13. waethorn

    I would bet it has something to do with monetizing individuals that refuse to pay the state BBC tax. Google wouldn't be collecting that on the BBC's behalf. Also, BBC really likes to keep regional control of their content, not letting anyone outside of GB getting access to their content for free. This is because they've sold that content to localized TV broadcasters and Internet streaming services, and they're trying to protect those partner companies local rights.

  14. matt mccarthy

    "Nation shall speak peace unto nation" but only via methods we approve.

  15. maethorechannen

    the BBC requires Google to sign a license in order to link to its podcasts and that Google must supply it with user data


    Does the BBC require this anyone else? Because I've never had any trouble with other podcast clients.

    The user data thing looks like an invitation to a massive GDPR violation.


    It would be hilarious of Google turned around and asked the BBC to sign a licence agreement to show up at all in any of Google's services.

  16. locust infested orchard inc

    Quote by Paul Thurrott, "But podnews reports that the BBC requires Google to sign a license in order to link to its podcasts and that Google must supply it with user data".


    At a glance, it appears to me the BBC, affectionately known as Auntie, demands Google to share the user data and analytics of the podcasts, though Google appears to be resistant. Hence the action taken by the Beeb.

  17. jackson123

    Yes they used User Data. So, it's not Good.... Thanks for info ...

Leave a Reply