April 26th, 2006


The BBC Programme Catalogue launches

Matt Biddulph is a person I have a great amount of respect for, not least because he's a dab hand at programming in all the important languages, but mostly because he applies his knowledge to some really cool tech that becomes vital to the broadcast sector. He first came to my attention when working for the BBC, around the time that Radio 1 first launched its Ten Hour Takeover, a series of shows where the music was picked by not just one listener, but hundreds of thousands of unique listeners based on their requests sent to the station via SMS text messages. Matt's software would intercept these text messages, analyse them and create aggregate reports that would help choose the music during the course of the ten hours. I soon found his blog, now syndicated via hackdiary.

Today, after much work with his colleagues, he's flipped the switch on probably one of the most important projects to concern the BBC since its inception: The BBC Programme Catalogue. Simply put, it's a searchable interface for the BBC's vast programme archive, spanning more than half a century of catalogued content, built using Ruby on Rails. Search for a programme name, and you'll find its airdates, individual episode descriptions, broadcast history, and even a tag cloud that depicts the subjects the programme covers. Search for a contributor by name - an actor, celebrity or regular joe like me - and you'll see all that contributor's appearances on BBC television and radio programmes, a list of people that contributor has appeared with, and a graph of their activity within the BBC over the years. And all of this information can be syndicated via specific RSS or Atom feeds.

The site catalogues close to a million different TV and radio programmes, over a million contributors, and lists over 500,000 subject categories that programmes can fall into. Best of all, any updates to the master databases within the BBC are reflected on the site the next day.

Good work, Matt. (Gosh, I wish I could trackback.)