How to Download Audio From BBC’s iPlayer Broadcasts

Simon Slangen 18-09-2009

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 The 5 Best Tools to Download Streaming Video From Any Website If you want to download videos from websites using online tools and programs, we've rounded up the best to get the job done quickly. Read More media from 16 Free Ways to Download Any Video Off the Internet Downloading videos off the internet is surprisingly easy. Here are free ways to download any video off the internet. Read More 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.


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 The Mark Pack - The Essentials On My Computer - Part Two Read More 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!

Related topics: BBC, Online Video, Television.

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    December 22, 2009 at 11:43 am


  2. cheese
    September 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    @Danny: you don't need to enter the programme id for radio-dl any more.
    Check out the search window under View>>Search.
    It's gone all point and click now.

  3. Alan
    September 18, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    There is a great tool for automatically downloading all the radio the BBC produces; sits in the background and does the job beautifully

    Radio Downloader

  4. Simon Slangen
    September 18, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Thanks for the great tips!

  5. Nguyen
    September 18, 2009 at 10:24 am

    most of the time, I just use Replay Music to record the whole broadcast as I'm listening to it. by the time I'm done listening, I've got an audio file waiting for me

  6. Danny
    September 18, 2009 at 10:08 am

    There's Radio DL which, once downloaded and installed, gives you one-click download of iplayer audio. You just need to give it the programme id from the url and off it goes. Works a treat.

  7. Druss
    September 18, 2009 at 9:44 am

    I'm sure there's all sorts of copyright issues here but FWIW - I used the Flashget and convert to MP3 option for a while but am now using a great tool called IPDL () Not only does this download a lot faster (6 mins instead of 30-40 mins for a 2 hour audio proigramme) you dont need to convert since you get an MP3.
    Can also use it for video as well ...