back to article Give us a bloody PIN: MPs grill BBC bosses over subscriber access

With the TV landscape changing faster than some viewers change their socks, today's marathon grilling of BBC bosses at Westminster took on some urgency. Amazon and Netflix are already here in millions of UK households – and Apple is coming, reportedly making a multibillion-dollar investment in studios and material. So although …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the BBC took the subscription model it wouldn't last a year and they know it.

    As it stands nearly everyone pays it, if you change it to subscription you have to get people to opt in to pay for something which to be honest you could live without.

    1. A K Stiles

      PIN / subscription for broadcast?

      I'm slightly confused after the article as to how the MPs are proposing a subscription would work for the broadcast channels, or are they suggesting that it all becomes point to point IP based?

      How about all the other BBC services they (are obliged?) to provide - Local and National radio etc?

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: PIN / subscription for broadcast?

        Sky and many other companies manage broadcast subscription services. It may have been difficult to achieve when broadcast TV was analogue, but after the digital switch-over it would be trivial to encrypt BBC broadcast channels so that people need to subscribe to get a decryption card.

        The BBC could have mandated that all digital receivers include a card slot at the time of the change-over, but they deliberately did not do so to reduce the pressure of being told to go subscription service instead of TV licence. But is does not make it impossible - set-top boxes with provision for decryption cards could be mass-produced to sell for less than half the TV licence fee, and a date for encryption set for, say, 2 years' time.

    2. Tigra 07
      Thumb Up

      RE: AC

      I only watch it for Doctor Who, and i could just buy BluRays instead for ~£30 a year instead. That's much cheaper and i'll OWN the content after.

      Plus, with the recent SJW agenda shitstuffing i'll likely end up abandoning the show anyway if it continues.

      I'm gay and Jack Harkness was a great bisexual character. Bill was a terrible gay character. If your character has to remind everyone they're gay EVERY episode then something is seriously wrong.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: RE: AC

        > Bill was a terrible gay character. If your character has to remind everyone they're gay EVERY episode then something is seriously wrong.

        To be fair, I've known gay people who felt the need to re-assert their homosexuality at every possible opportunity. Conversely, I've also known people who you'd never have guessed were gay if they hadn't told you. Different people differ, so I don't think Bill's character was that unrealistic

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: RE: AC

          If you want to see how they get gay right and wrong then watch this weeks Walking Dead (right) and Supergirl (last 3 seasons, wrong), the reason is that Walking dead this week portrays a gay character and what happens in a way that is very touching and you genuinely feel for the situation (trying not to spoil it for those that haven't seen it) whereas Supergirl has hamfistedly pushed a gay character over 3 seasons that does nothing for the story and covers every gay cliche ever. If you are going to try and portray real life in a story then keep it real to the extent that the story will allow, characters should just be who they are regardless of their sexuality.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE: AC

        If your character has to remind everyone they're gay EVERY episode then something is seriously wrong

        If you character ever has to remind anyone that they're gay (or straight) then something is seriously wrong. It's time-travel SF, not porn, sexual orientation is irrelevant.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      "If the BBC took the subscription model "

      Why does it have to be either/or? As pointed out towards the end of the article, the BBC has a huge and very valuable back catalogue, and the volume/size to have some clout with international distributers. So continue to charge a (possibly reduced) license fee for live and delayed (up to a number of days, maybe) TV viewing, and an additional subscription fee for access to a wealth of old BBC shows and new-ish content sourced from abroad.

      Subscribers of course will have to have a login and password to access the premium BBC content. More tricky to introduce a user/login for people who only take the basic service (ie just teh license fee), because that would imply a BBC logon even if they want to watch ITV etc, ie license fee payers would need to logon to a BBC platform verifying that they have paid their license before they can get connected to any live TV service, whether it's provided by BBC or a third party.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Go

        I cant see the difficulty...

        Imagine that every user of the Iplayer or BBC Online Services gets a Login, and when they create the Login they give their address. When they pay their licence fee they provide their Login details. Boom straight up every user of Online Content is registered in the database and their payment status confirmed.

        If a user wants to access Premium Services (e.g. the back catalogue, etc) they pay a subscription and that gives them access to the Content they want.

        Everyone can still access regular TV and pay everything the old fashioned way, but it would give the BBC a much easier list to idenitfy households not paying the fee or not using the online contents.

        This is not a new system. It should not be difficult to implement. Tiered access to Services is used all over the shop, so I really dont get the BBC objections... Other than that their lazy c&nts, but we kinda already knew that...

      2. GruntyMcPugh

        "BBC logon even if they want to watch ITV"

        Indeed, at present, the addition of a PIN in iPlayer doesn't satisfy the goal of proving those watching live TV have a valid TV license. The law would need to be changed to allow the watching of live commercial telly without a license first,.. then as you say, the subscribers to the full BBC service could underwrite some free to air services, like news, PIN free. Or be draconian, and make every live TV provider authenticate to the BBC,... I can imagine that being resisted heavily, as it would be a SPOF and a DDOS target, and hand the BBC a big kill switch.

        And it isn't a simple task to enable a PIN, every single app on every smart telly would have to support it, at the risk of cutting off some people with older devices. total buggering nightmare if all apps have authenticate, ITV Player, 4OD, etc.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "the BBC has a huge and very valuable back catalogue"

        However with outsourcing of program making, the vast majority of RECENT programming isn't in that back catalogue.

  2. Joe Harrison

    Who would pay for BBC access?

    To watch TV you need a TV license and the money goes to the BBC. But I believe lots of people would say no if asked to pay directly to watch BBC. I for example wouldn't pay and would be fine with being denied access to Eastenders and Strictly Dancing and so on. Maybe they know that and would rather just harvest the easy money via the license fee.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

      To be fair to Auntie, there are a few things worth watching - for example the excellent work of the wildlife unit. I'm not sure this justifies the frankly steep license fee - the best part of £150 doesn't compare well with, for example Amazon Prime at around half the price, especially when you consider that Amazon give you several products for this price (such as free postage, Twitch prime, etc.) and a few programs you'd actually want to watch, even if their catalogue is sparse.

      It is a shame that so much of its other output is populist drivel, but then the commercial channels aren't exactly better in this regard, but Amazon do manage to give a few high quality offerings, such as American Gods, Mr Robot and Ash vs the Evil Dead. I can't remember the last time the beeb gave us any programming of that quality, although I'm holding out for Good Omens...

      The public service broadcasting, such as the news should arguably be paid for out of general taxation anyway - it's not like they're exactly independent of government.

      1. kain preacher

        Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

        "American Gods, Mr Robot and Ash vs the Evil Dead"

        Um non of those are produced my amazon. Mr robot is USA show which has commercials.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

          Um non of those are produced my amazon. Mr robot is USA show which has commercials.

          I never said they were. They are, however, available as part of the Amazon subscription.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

        "so much of its other output is populist drivel"

        And yet if you have a quick look at BBC4 there's stuff that would never be funded at a commercial station in a hundred years (eg).

        Sure, you might not like their more highbrow stuff either, but I can't think of any other broadcasters that make both "populist drivel" and what I'm going to guess you'll call "elitist drivel" at the same time.

      3. strum

        Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

        > I can't remember the last time the beeb gave us any programming of that quality

        Wolf Hall, Happy Valley, Luther, Sherlock, Peaky Blinders, W1A... dozens more of them.

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

      The annoying thing is you have to pay for a BBC license to watch ANY live tv at all. Including subscriptions like live sport on Sky.

      Here in Scotland because it is very much the BBC IN Scotland that BBC Scotland and game over all Britnat/Unionist propaganda mouthpiece in the latter stages of the referendum lots of folk have stopped paying the license fee. There are websites guiding you on how to do it. Under Scots law you do not have to let them in but if they can see or hear a live broadcast you are toast.

      I would cease to pay it but my wife won't let me.

      I NEVER watch any BBC news apart from egregious excerpts posted online. We now have STV2 which shows a half hour of Scottish News, that is news from a Scottish perspective, they have access to all the ITV correspondents too. All the stuff BBC Scotland said would be very difficult and why we can't have a Scottish Six.

      STV just went and did it. 7pm channel 159 on Virgin (in Scotland). Mind I had to bitch hard at Virgin to get that.

      1. rh587 Silver badge

        Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

        There are websites guiding you on how to do it. Under Scots law you do not have to let them in but if they can see or hear a live broadcast you are toast.

        Under British law you do not have to let them in. "Scots Law" has feck all to do with it.

        TV "Inspectors" have fewer powers than council parking wardens. To be specific, they have no powers. They are literally members of the public with no special authority whatsoever. They can knock on your door, ask to be let in, and you can tell them no.

        If they can see a TV through the front windows then yes, they'll be able to gather enough evidence for a private prosecution, but they have no right of entry to your abode.

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

      I'd pay for BBC access, if I was allowed as a left-pondian. Beats the f*ck out of any American TV and/or news. I'd actually watch real TV again.

      Edit: And no... BBC America can suck my eight-inch non-dairy creamer. I remember the day I found they were cutting LARGE chunks out to drop in commercials...

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: Who would pay for BBC access?

        I'd likely pay as someone abroad, to stream r6, and have access to things like the Blue Planet 2 that's on now for example. I'd probably happily pick up the comedies like QI and Have I got news, and the odd bit like that as well.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "What Amazon has done is utterly brilliant and has transformed the way we do things," he said.

    What has Amazon transformed, a way to get more money for less? Prime is a wasteland and you have to pay for everything else which isn't much better.

    1. Augie

      Re: "What Amazon has done is utterly brilliant and has transformed the way we do things," he said.

      Wasteland? I find plenty to watch on there.. Far more than the BBC

      1. Richard Jones 1
        WTF?

        Re: "What Amazon has done is utterly brilliant and has transformed the way we do things," he said.

        While I have had an Amazon Prime sub for a while and in a burst of excitement bought a Firestick for one of the TVs that did not have easy access, I have yet to watch anything. I have simply not been able to find anything that appealed to me. There must be a trick to making their hard to access listings easier to understand.

        I rarely if ever use iplayer as I either PVR anything I can watch in real time or simply don't bother at all. Entering long arcane codes to get iPlayer would be an effort not worth making.

  4. }{amis}{
    Thumb Down

    News

    The only bit of the BeeB that i would pay for given the option is the news the rest of it i can do without.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: News

      You do realise it's heavily slanted biased propaganda? That's fine if it agrees with your own viewpoint but I prefer more balanced coverage myself not that you can get that.

      1. }{amis}{

        Re: News

        Is any national news network unbiased?? the beeb is on the whole better than most and its not hard to spot the deliberate bias.

        Also what else are you going to take RT, Fox, The Guardian

        All news is biased personally i like the Metro when i can get a copy.

        1. Da Weezil

          Re: News

          "All news is biased personally i like the Metro when i can get a copy."

          Get the app on smartphone - I'm out in the sticks and its the only way I can get their output

      2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: News

        Labour claim the BBC is biased towards the Conservatives.

        The Conservatives claim the BBC is biased towards Labour.

        If you're annoying both sides, it's a fair indicator you're playing it down the middle.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: News

          Labour claim the BBC is biased towards the Conservatives.

          The Conservatives claim the BBC is biased towards Labour.

          The problem is that, in trying to appear 'unbiased', the BBC tries to put forward every viewpoint, no matter how out-of-whack with reality, hence the promotion of idiocy on the same footing as rational thought. For instance, with climate science, where 99% of scientists in the field hold the same opinion, but they will always wheel out a 'contrary opinion' from a fossil-fuel lobbyist and treat them as if they each carry equal weight.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: News

            Yep. The problem is that those who shout about it tend to have views towards the extremes. They said something which I disagree with. BIAS! etc. etc.

            They do it all the time, but they do it in both directions. However, those who tend to claim bias think it's still OK to use insulting language against groups of people (although for some reason they think that someone shouting "fuck" is a disgrace). These people tend to veer to the right, but not always, hence the claims of political correctness gone mad etc.

            They do also tend to criticise those who are in power, which is what the press is for. The fact that we've had governments to the right of centre (although individuals to the left in the case of New Labour) since the 1970s it's plain that they will be held to account more.

            What we do not need is TV media which are a mouthpiece for their owner, as the majority of "newspapers" (using the term loosely) are.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: News

              Ah yes, the unbiased BBC.

              The ones, only last week, describing Jewish terrorists fighting for a Jewish state in 1948 as paramilitary groups.

              Or today, suggesting that some people (presumably back when it was written) thought George Orwell's 1984 was inspired by autocracy within the BBC, yet failing to mention that most people (today) thought it was being used as an instruction manual for recent British governments.

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: News

                Over here on the left pond paramilitary describes any organisation with ranks and uniforms.

                We have a paramilitary division (*) that does a paramilitary version of one of our products - for sale to coast guard and marine rescue.

                * I always picture them as sitting around in cubicles in black balaclavas and combat jackets.

              2. CrazyOldCatMan

                Re: News

                describing Jewish terrorists fighting for a Jewish state in 1948 as paramilitary groups

                In much the same way as they used to describe the IRA you mean?

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: News

                  @CrazyOldCatMan

                  Sorry, you're right - only radical Muslims are terrorists. The rest are just freedom fighters.

                  /Sarcasm off.

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: News

        That's fine if it agrees with your own viewpoint but I prefer more balanced coverage myself not that you can get that.

        You do realise that you're asking for an oxymoron? If you think coverage is balanced then it's almost certainly biased towards your opinions.

        Some degree of bias is unavoidable but I can live with that as long as facts are checked and are, well, facts. The dumbing down of the news to little more than a series of quotes to try and show balance is what erodes news broadcasting.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: News

          @Charlie Clark

          I do, however that's why I said you can't get that.

          I see others have claimed to know me and that I disagree with the BBC because I'm far right or otherwise.

          Nothing could be further from the truth so what do I class as unbiased? I would class as unbiased a news organisation that reported facts and didn't use terminology as a way to push a point or viewpoint, an example of this would be incidents where there is loss of life. Depending on who did it or what happened the media loves to use different words to describe the numbers. Examples of this are a couple, a few, many, scores, dozens, multiple, hundreds. Can we not just keep it to the facts? That's just one example but there are many others.

          1. strum

            Re: News

            >Can we not just keep it to the facts?

            No. because the selection of facts is one of the easiest ways to promote bias. And facts do need explanation - what do they mean? what reactions have they induced? what measures will be required?

            A fact-only news organisation is a chimera.

        2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: News

          The BBC has been found guilty several times of falsifying documentaries - IOW lying. I saw this for myself in an African country when money was thrown into some dustbins at the back of a shopping centre so the BBC could film children rummaging to get it, the resulting documentary reported that the poor black children were starving and getting food from the dustbins of the rich whites.

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: News

            I thought that was Damien Day?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    iPlayer and the License

    Surely, it can't be that difficult to add a license number field to the iPlayer database? You could then encourage people to buy a license by only allowing access to the Parliament channel if the field is null.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: iPlayer and the License

      That's far too easy and far too cheap for the BBC to implement.

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: iPlayer and the License

      Easy to add, but:

      1. Radio doesn't require a license. But the BBC have seen fit to require an iplayer log in for it anyway.

      2. Licenses are currently per household, not per person, this is a difference if you are comparing directly to subscription models too.

      3. Presumably you want to actually track whether that license is valid and usable by the account holder (see 2).

      From the report it doesn't sound like the MPs have really considered the implications of requiring everyone in the UK to create what amount to social media accounts to access content from our state broadcaster.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: iPlayer and the License

        I don't give a flung fig for TV (don't have one in the house and watch a program via the interwebs about once every 2 or 3 years if that) but do value BBC radio output.

        Consequently I'd be happy to have a radio-only subscription if that would guarantee support for:

        - continued access to radio content on FM channels

        - the now arbitrarily cancelled 7-day catch-up service that I used to be able to get via my Logitech Touch

        - on-demand access to archived programs: "Old Harry's Game" comes to mind.

        Since that would be at least as worthwhile as reading New Scientist (I have a subscription for that, provided on dead trees) I'd probably be willing to pay a similar subscription for the aforementioned BBC services, and certainly would be happy to cough up the equivalent of an online NS sub if there was one, i.e. the current NS sub less printing, packaging and postage costs

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: iPlayer and the License

          One advantage of a dead tree NS sub is it gets you full access to the website too. It's damn good value.

          I used to keep the copies, in file boxes with the index lists they issued at the end of the year. But I put them in the recycling when the website went up with a search function for old articles.

          I give my copies to a family friend in bundles, carefully ordered.

      2. Ian Mason

        Re: iPlayer and the License

        "From the report it doesn't sound like the MPs have really considered the implications of requiring everyone in the UK to create what amount to social media accounts to access content from our state broadcaster."

        Erm, hasn't that already happened with the BBC now requiring a login to iPlayer.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: iPlayer and the License

          The login requirement for iPlayer is utter bullshit. Apparently, “This is so we can make the BBC more relevant and personal to you”. I used to listen to the occasional radio show on iPlayer, and don’t need other crap to be offered to me. Now I don’t bother. I’m getting close to sacking off my TV licence, I watch very little TV and for what I’m paying for a TV licence plus Sky I’d sooner go to the pub and watch the occasional footie game in there.

        2. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: iPlayer and the License

          Erm, hasn't that already happened with the BBC now requiring a login to iPlayer.

          Yes, and rather than saying, "Hang on a moment..." they seem to want to double down on it.

        3. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: iPlayer and the License

          "Erm, hasn't that already happened with the BBC now requiring a login to iPlayer."

          Only via the website. On the YouView box it asks for a login, but you can skip it. How long this carries on for I don't know.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: iPlayer and the License

        >1. Radio doesn't require a license. But the BBC have seen fit to require an iplayer log in for it anyway.

        Doesn't mean it doesn't need a subscription...

        I think part of the problem is "the license" itself. Originally it was quite clear, you needed a licence to receive radio and tv broadcasts, regardless of which station/channel you listened to or watched, and so you paid the GPO for the licence.

        Now whilst you still need a licence to watch ITV etc. the licence has been sort of morphed into a pseudo subscription to the BBC, which is probably the cause of much confusion.

        I think what people are trying to avoid doing is to change the BBC into a fully fledged subscription service, which makes some things easier whilst making others harder.

        From what I can see, the BBC should be rolling out licence holder account/subscription id's that are unique to a licence holder, but different to the licence number. This permitting new services and levels of service subscription to be built upon the subscriber and the licence only being used to cover those who only want live broadcast TV and no web access.

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