BBC’s new download service

Summary 

A few thoughts on making the BBC’s new download service work both for licence fee payers and everyone else.

Just a short blogpost on this one. The BBC has (at long last) announced it wants to create what is seen as a ‘rival’ to eye-tewnz. (No spambots for me). With such a huge archive this could be a massive revenue raiser for the BBC. The principle of it is something I quite like – there are thousands upon thousands of hours of top quality broadcasting material hidden away gathering dust. Why not make it all available?

The other question is: Who pays? When living in my own place I’ve always had a TV licence. Thus in one sense I’ve already paid. All of us that have paid the licence fee have already paid. Why should we be charged again? On the other hand, not everyone has paid. Making all of the content free to everyone all over the world is in effect a subsidy by UK licence fee payers to everyone else.

This whole conundrum is a wider reflection of the battle between the copyright vs creative commons movements. Yet the content needs to be paid for somehow. The BBC does it through licensing in the main, ITV through adverts and BSkyB through subscriptions topped up by adverts.

One of the things technology has allowed for is the encryption of broadcasting. One of the things technology also allows for is for licence-fee users to punch in their licence fee numbers and access that back catalogue. This could give the BBC the best of both worlds: Free access to anyone with a TV licence while charging per programme for those that do not. That way licence fee payers won’t feel they are being charged again for something they have already paid for, while at the same time avoiding the “free rider” problem.

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2 Responses to BBC’s new download service

  1. skylarksara says:

    I remember a discussion on this, a couple of months ago, on NotTheTalk. I suggested just what you have said, and for the same reasons, and I am still licking the scabs over the bullet holes. I still think it’s the only fair and reasonable way forward.

    I think it is important, too, that the revenues from these sales are tracked, and restricted to use for programme making, not used to provide payoffs for private enterprise doing the electronic distribution, off the back of the nationally funded and nationally held programme archive.

  2. I have often wondered this… and wondered why people who have paid a licence fee but are away from the UK do not have the option to watch BBC I-player online. OR why people overseas can’t get a licence fee and subscribe to the BBC? I know a group of Americans that really wanted to.. Could they not create more revenue by opening this up as an option? Or would the cost of setting it up be more than they could get in return? Or would it just be too impossible to moderate and manage? (I don’t know the answer to any of these questions!)

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