The Top Twenty (or so) non-commercial Video Webcasts
by Oliver Seely
Revised January 4, 2011
Are you tired of conventional television via the airwaves, cable or satellite? Do you find yourself driven to distraction by a 30-minute program with 15 minutes of commercials? Are you beginning to yell back at the newscaster who shouts the news at you? Are you half-bald from tearing out your hair for having to pay a monthly premium to subsidize channels which have no interest to you? Fed up with the synchronization of commercials between channels so that there is no way to escape them? Not interested in the Shop at Home Network, the Beauty and Fashion Channel, Jewelry Television or Horse Racing TV? Then perhaps non-commercial webcast television is in your future!
Did you know that an s-video output from your laptop computer is compatible with the s-video input jack or the yellow composite video RCA jack on your TV? If you have a laptop computer and a TV with an RCA jack or an s-video input jack, all you need is the appropriate cable to send your laptop video signal to the TV. Transferring the audio requires a separate cable, but one which is easily obtained. (Note: if after connecting everything, you don't see your laptop screen image on the TV, don't panic. A simple keyboard command to send the video signal to the TV may be all that is required. If that doesn't work, the video signal may not activate your TV if the connection was made while the laptop was on. Turn off the laptop, make the connection and reboot.) You will of course need either a cable or wireless connection to the Internet for your laptop computer.
How much television is streaming your way over the Internet? A Google search on the keyword “webcast” yields 11,300,000 web hits and 12,200 video hits, as of January 4, 2011. Some of the web hits are simply text files in which the word “webcast” is used. Some others are duplicates of those listed earlier, but there is plenty of genuine streaming video among the more than twelve thousand video hits.
The title of this page is consistent with the exaggeration, obfuscation and hyperbole of our age. That is to say, it is misleading. In an attempt simply to find what is out there, every link which yielded some noncommercial video webcasts which could be put in “full-screen” or “theatre” mode was added. I stopped when I had collected a handful out of the first 70 links. They represented the "top 20" sites in the first list I created. Several other sites have been added since this page was launched in 2007. They include the NASA channel (not from NASA but from a site which allows full screen video), the Classical Arts Showcase (not from CAS but from a site which subscribes to it), and the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Both live streaming video and “video on demand” or “archived video” sites were included. If you find a commercial message on any of the links below, please write to me at
so that I can remove it immediately from the list. I found the following sites by looking at fewer than 70 Google hits, so I leave it to you to continue the search. You still have more than twelve thousand hits to go!
What was included and what was excluded?
All noncommercial sites with streaming video and archived video were included. Many national government agencies have streaming video and video archives, as does the United Nations. They were included. Sites which require the visitor to login have been excluded with the single exception of the Christmas Lectures from the Royal Institution. Excluded also were all sites the video of which could not be expanded to fill the screen. If the video offered at a site was “one shot” only, for a conference or single presentation, it didn’t make the list. Sites which offer only live streaming video but no archival material were excluded because all such sites were found to be "off the air" when I did my search. Any site which requires one to download software carrying a monetary obligation was excluded as were all sites which require the visitor to register (with the single exception of the Christmas Lectures from the Royal Institution). Audio-only webcasts were excluded. Sites which require the installation of free video plug-ins were allowed. Where a site which satisfies the “accept” criteria was found, but was sub-linked from a home page, the link to the home page is given if that page clearly has a pointer to the page which was found to be “acceptable” for this list.
Videos from private companies? No.
Increasingly, private companies are offering video announcements and presentations via webcasts. Microsoft, not surprisingly, is one of them. Others are offering self-help videos for their products. Black & Decker is one of these. Such sites were not included in this list.
Webcasts are being offered by organizations in many countries. After I had found around 20 hits originating in the U.S. I began to search specifically for sites in other countries. I have included samples of streaming video from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Micronesia via the French television service TV5 as well as CityNews from Toronto, Canada and some press conferences from the government of Finland.
Quality of streaming video webcasts.
You will find more than a few talking heads in this collection. That ought to remind you how much time we spend already watching talking heads on conventional television. A picture may be worth a thousand words unless it is a talking head; a talking head is worth less than ten words in this writer's opinion. But the offering here is not entirely a lost cause. There are a few gems. Some archival films from Rice University, the analysis of the Archimedes Palimpsest carried out at the Stanford University Linear Accelerator and presented at the San Francisco Exploratorium, a series of descriptions of the unmanned NASA planetary missions and the presentation files which one can view on the cable or satellite channel UCTV from the University of California are cases in point and examples of the variety of material you will be able to find with a little resourceful searching. In addition to the abundance of ill-at-ease speakers there are some superb, professionally produced videos worthy of prime-time television, but which likely will never make it.
When all is said and done, if you begin to suffer a panic attack because you need a commercial fix, you'll find the most creative and the zaniest commercials on the Web, most of which will never find their way to prime time television because of the number of people they are bound to offend. You'll also discover some interesting cultural differences between intended audiences. I'll let you be the one to search for those. Using Google, the keyword "banned commercials" yields 10,200 hits; "silly commercials" finds 67 and "zany commercials", 13. There's bound to be a pony in there somewhere.
This page is provided for discussion and reflection only. I do not intend to keep it up to date. It is in any case heartening to know that the Web is virtually exploding with video material which gives us some welcome alternatives to conventional television offerings. Enjoy!
The “top twenty” (or so) non-commercial video webcast links:
The Abbey Road Crossing. The most famous pedestrian crossing in popular music, outside Abbey Road Studios in north London, this crossing was made famous by the Beatles one August morning in 1969 during a 10-minute photo shoot. Watching it for short periods, day and night will yield young people posing, as did the Beatles, for their own place in immortality at the Abbey Road Crossing. http://www.abbeyroad.com/visit/
The Archaeology Channel. At this writing, the offerings at this site allow you to choose between two or three download speeds. Sometimes the slow speed gives the client surprisingly good resolution: http://www.archaeologychannel.org
The Archimedes Palimpsest: http://www.exploratorium.edu/archimedes/webcast.html
UC Berkeley Webcasts: http://webcast.berkeley.edu/
Canadian Broadcasting Company. This site is offered tentatively. At this writing, the news comes without commercials. The CBC logo is given during commercial interruptions but that may end any time in the future. The great thing about these CBC offerings is that local Canadian news at 6pm local time, interspersed with national and international stories, can be viewed starting with New Brunswick in the east and ending with Vancouver in the west four and one-half hours later. It almost amounts to "news on demand." You may get stop-motion video depending on the competition at the server, but the audio is usually okay. http://www.cbc.ca/
Christmas Lectures from the Royal Institution. The
Lectures were started in the mid-1820s by Michael Faraday and have continued up to the present
time. You must register with a username and password, but at this writing all of the offerings are
non-commercial and free. Don't let the "add to shopping cart" put you off. Evidently the Royal
Institution uses standard commercial billing software, but all of the prices (at this writing,
come up as 0 pounds. Go to the link below, click on webcasts and go from there.
City News from Toronto, Canada: http://www.citynews.ca/
Classical Arts Showcase. This is probably available from
more than one source. This source is from Cal Poly, Pomona and the Classical Arts Showcase
material is often preempted by course material on video.
The Commenwealth Club of California. A public forum. http://www.youtube.com/commonwealthclub
U.S. Department of Education. Education News Parents Can Use – Webcast Center
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Webcast archives:
Dominguez Hills Live: http://dhtv.csudh.edu/
Duke University Law School Webcasts: http://www.law.duke.edu/webcast/
Exploratorium Upcoming Webcasts: http://www.exploratorium.edu/webcasts/index.php
U. S. Federal Communications Commission. Audio/Video events:
Caltech JPL Webcasts: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/webcast/galileo/
U.S. Library of Congress Webcasts: http://www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/
NAACP 98th Annual Convention in Detroit, July 8-12, 2007:
History of Rice University Series:
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Click on "Watch Video"
and then on "Programs". Once you choose a program, scroll throught the offerings in the upper
right corner of the icon to find something which interests you. When found, left click in the
center of the icon to obtain video on demand of that program.
TV5 French Channel:
U.S. Department of Education.
Summer Programs: Keeping Students Reading and Learning
University of California Webcasts. The same
video programs both recent and archived which you see on the cable and satellite channel UCTV:
U.S. Security and Exchange Commission Open Meetings:
University of Oxford (U.K.) Webcasts: http://webcast.oii.ox.ac.uk/
UN General Webcasts: http://www.un.org/webcast/