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BBC launches “radio visualisation” trial

Audiences will be able to watch some of their favourite radio shows being broadcast, as the BBC launches its latest “radio visualisation” trial. The trial – which runs until 31 July – begins by offering an enhanced, online version of Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio 5 Live show, before being rolled out rolled out to other shows including The Chris Moyles Show and Switch on BBC Radio 1, Material World on BBC Radio 4 and The Hub on BBC 6 Music.

Online audiences will be able to view “glanceable” content – webcam streams, images, now playing and artist information, news and sports feeds – and interact with the programme through a pop-up console online and, later in the trial, by downloading an application to their mobile phone.

For example, listeners to Simon Mayo’s show will be able to see what happens in the studios, watch guests being interviewed and read other listeners’ text and email messages on screen.

And, in response to audience feedback from the first phase of the trial (January 2009), this phase also includes on-demand content, for those that miss the live broadcast, and a mobile version of the console. The first of these will be a 45-minute compilation of the best bits of Simon Mayo’s programmes from the week, including star guests, reviews and banter, available every Friday.

The trial will also allow BBC Audio & Music Interactive to assess the public’s appetite for enhanced, visual radio offerings and share their findings with the rest of the radio industry.

Mark Friend, Controller of Multiplatform and Interactive, BBC Audio & Music said: “The visualisation console is about enriching the digital listening experience. More people are consuming radio on different platforms and on devices that have screens.

“Just as DAB listeners might glance at their screen to see what track is playing or what DJ is coming up next, the visualisation console experiments with putting all of our glanceable content in a single place in order to create a richer user experience.

“I look forward to what we can learn from this trial and being able to share findings with the wider radio industry.”

The console will be available to download on a selected number of mobile devices which have been chosen based on analysis of mobile traffic to Audio & Music sites. This includes the majority of high-end smartphones and most popular mobile handsets.

The mobile application will not include live video. Tests suggest that it is not currently feasible to offer a stable, good-quality feed of live video and live audio over the limited capacity of mobile data networks.

In order to keep data costs to a minimum, we highly recommend running the mobile visualisation console over a WiFi connection or flat-rate data bundle.

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