How to Download Audio From BBC’s iPlayer Broadcasts

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iPlayerLast night, Mark had a problem – like even the most tech-savvy guys do, from time to time. However hard he tried, he just couldn’t download audio from the BBC iPlayer broadcasts.

It was ridiculous to see the hundreds, if not thousands of how-to’s on downloading media from YouTube, but hardly a single one about other media broadcasting sites like the BBC iPlayer.

The most returning response of our stand-by tech time was to record the audio output of the stream — literally record the sound as it booms out of your speakers — but there had to be a better, more elegant way of doing this.

It turns out there is, and we found out how. (NOTE : this only applies to the audio streams, NOT the iPlayer videos)

1. Download The RealMedia Metafile

I presume you’ve already found a hard-to-download piece of audio on the BBC website. For this example, I will be using the BBC iPlayer audio broadcast of the 2009 BBC Proms.

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Although BBC switched to Flash ages ago, they still offer support for RealPlayer. Thus, if you look well, you can find several audio files that are not hidden in the flash. First of all, we’re searching for a RealMedia Metafile – a small RealMedia playlist that will eventually lead us to our audio.

download audio from bbc iplayer

Just open the source code of the webpage in question (View – Open Source, or right-click on the page). Press Ctrl+F to open a search box and query for “.ram”, without quotes.

Once you’ve found the URL of your ram file, copy it and download it to your desktop. You can use a download manager, or just paste the URL in the address bar of your webbrowser.

2. Resolve The Link

Sadly, our RAM file is a referrer-file. This means that it only points to relevant audio data, but doesn’t contain it. To find our audio files, we’re going to use a third-party application.

Magic RM RAM to MP3 Converter, similar to most applications with a ridiculously long name, is a paid application. Nevertheless, the free ‘trial’ – which dumbs down functionality, but does not force any particular usage timeframe on you – will work just fine.

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Once you’ve downloaded the application, go to ‘Tools – Open RM Link File…

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In the pop-up window, open the RAM file you’ve downloaded in step 1. Magic Converter will automatically resolve the file, and present you with a hyperlink to the relevant audio file.

The link comes with a long suffix of gibberish, but you can ignore everything behind the ‘.ra’. Trim the link and copy it to your clipboard.

3. Download Your File

All that’s left is to download the file. Peanuts? – not necessarily.

To our disappointment, Real streaming doesn’t use the HTTP protocol you might expect. Instead, it uses the fairly obscure RTSP (Real Time Streaming) protocol, which most download managers don’t support. Luckily, there are still a handful of applications that walk the RTSP pathways. And FlashGet, a free download manager, is one of them.

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With FlashGet installed, add a new download with the link to your RA file. Peanuts? – most definitely.

What’s Next?

If everything went well, you should be receiving your RA file by now. RA stands short for Real Audio — basically, the mp3 of Real Media.

To enjoy your RA file, you can either download the free Real Player – a really fine one at that – or you can install the necessary codecs to play it with other applications.

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As an alternative and my recommended option, you can convert your RA to MP3, or another media format. There are plenty of applications out there that do the job for free, Jodix and Switch are two great examples. Another is Quick Media Converter which Mark discussed in his “Mark Pack” articles.

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Do you know any alternative methods to download audio from BBC iPlayer? We’d love to hear about it! Don’t be afraid, and plop a comment in the comments section below!

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