How to download a CBC radio show episode no longer available as a podcast

Sadly, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has a policy to keep podcasts available for download only 3 months for daily shows and 6 months for weekly shows with some of them being available for an even shorter time. Luckily, most shows can still be streamed from the CBC radio website using a flash/web player but are still no longer available for direct download. That’s convenient if you’re in front of your computer (which is seldom the case when listening to radio), but not that practical if you want to take an old favorite on a run.

Most of what we do on our computers is just data copying and playback, always in that order. So if it’s playing in your computer speakers, its coming from a stream, and if it’s coming from a stream, it can be copied as file. There are tons of software and websites that will let you do just that, but most of them are geared towards more popular streaming sites of the likes of YouTube and such so I had to resort to another technique for the CBC’s website. The non-trivial part here is to find the URL from which the data is coming from but modern web browsers and their built-in debugging facility have made this an easy task. Once you have the URL, you’re free to download the wanted file at will. This process assumes you’re using Chrome, but it works just as well with Firefox.

So let’s say I want to download this past episode of the show Ideas. There is a player on the page, but no download link.

  1. Bring up the page in Chrome but don’t start streaming yet.
  2. Left-click anywhere on the page and click on “Inspect element“, this will bring up the Chrome debugger.
  3. Within the debugger, switch over to the “Network” tab.
  4. On the episode’s page, start steaming the episode by clicking the play button, you’ll see a bunch of things happening in the debugger window.
  5. Click on the “type” column to sort the data elements by type and find the audio/mpeg (or media) one, that’s the file you’re streaming (see screenshot below). Mine’s name is ideas_20130307_53465_uploaded.mp3.
  6. Left-click on the name and select “Copy link address” or “Open in new tab” and that’s it, from there you can download the episode as a file. The link for my episode is http://thumbnails.cbc.ca/maven_legacy/thumbnails/14/881/ideas_20130307_53465_uploaded.mp3. When opening up the link in your browser, it might bring up its own player but if you click around, you’ll find an option to download the file instead of playing it.
Chrome debugger view with the stream data row highlighted. Left-clicking on the row will bring up a link to the stream itself and allow its downloading.

Chrome debugger view with the stream data row highlighted. Left-clicking on the row will bring up a link to the stream itself and allow its downloading.

10 thoughts on “How to download a CBC radio show episode no longer available as a podcast

  1. Thank you! These complicated instructions worked perfectly. I can’t imagine how long it took you to figure this out, but it sure made life easier for me. There was only one change: instead of audio/mpeg, which did not show up as a type, I chose media. After that, I followed the rest of your instructions and was able to download a usable mp3 of the radio broadcast I needed for my class. Well done Antoine!

  2. I can’t seem to make this work. I’ve used Firefox and Chrome. It works well on the example you use, i.e. “rethinking depression” but I can’t get it to work for “bugs ‘r us” No media file shows up. Any suggestions?

    Thanks

    Peter

  3. Hey Peter,

    I’ve done some sniffing around with wireshark and it seems the CBC player is not using HTTP to fetch audio. However, I’ve noticed the HTML code of the popup actually includes a link to the actual mp3 file. Using Chrome:

    1. click on the “LISTEN TO FULL EPISODE” link on the CBC website;
    2. on the popup player window, right click anywhere and select “Inspect”;
    3. on the “Elements” tab, hit Ctrl-F and type “mp3”, it should highlight an “audio” tag with a url to a mp3 file;
    4. copy that url in your browser and it will let you download the episode.

    If you have any trouble finding the link, tell me and I’ll send it to you through email.

    Antoine

  4. Antoine, you’re a life saver. I discovered CBC’s “The Irrelevant Show” earlier this year and listened to all the episodes in the podcast feed (going back to January), and was highly frustrated that there were dozens more in the archive that I couldn’t download for off line enjoyment. Thanks to your tip I can.

    Thank you!

  5. Wow Antoine!!!!!! you just allowed me to listen eastern arctic legends while running around Toronto!!! That’s lovely!!!! You are a ROCK START!!!!

  6. Still works! Thanks. I was able to use similar steps in Safari, but of course you have to enable Developer mode and select Show Web Inspector. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same. Thanks again, Antoine.

  7. Awesome! Thank you for this. It works perfectly. I am always frustrated trying to manage podcasts. I just want the file!

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