back to article WTF... should I pay to download BBC shows?

The outgoing Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, recently announced plans for Project Barcelona, a download store for material from the BBC archives. At the moment, you can watch most BBC programmes for seven days after broadcast, free of charge using iPlayer. In a few cases, a whole series may be available for a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Bad example

    Doctor Who is a bad example. What people don't realise is that the BBC don't own the restored versions produced for DVD. 2Entertain do because they paid for them to be restored. The last time I asked a few years back it was the case that the restored versions don't make their way back to the BBC archive and if the BBC want to show these versions on TV they must pay 2Entertain.

    Seems like madness to me. You have a copy falling apart in the archive and your commercial arm (2Entertain is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of BBC Worldwide) is holding the pristine copy in their own archive.

    So depending on which part of the BBC is selling the content online you may or may not get a restored copy for download. Certainly the copies I've seen online on various services have been the untouched versions.

    Policy may have changed since I last asked but probably not.

  2. Greg 16

    Bullshit - all this stuff will be digitally archived anyway if it isn't already, and the server load will be tiny compared to that of people watching recent programmes on iplayer.

    The future of TV is heading in the direction of something like YouView, which means that EVERYTHING will be streamed from servers.

    1. Toxteth O'Gravy

      "future of TV is heading in the direction of something like YouView"

      What, you mean it'll be delayed and delayed and delayed... and then vanish altogether for lack of interest?

    2. Jonathan 10

      The author never disputed that its not archived, especially the newer stuff..but rather the 'BBC' (the right bit of it) might not have the permission to allow acccess for 'free'.

      1. Greg 16

        Sure, he has a point about some of the material having rights issues, but personally I think that it would only actually affect a tiny proportion of the total archive.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Equity et al

          "Sure, he has a point about some of the material having rights issues, but personally I think that it would only actually affect a tiny proportion of the total archive."

          Let me break this down for you as you clearly have no understanding of how it works and just think that anything can be broadcast or distributed for free.

          Anything with actors in it means repeat fees as stipulated by Equity rules. As far as I am aware any actor worth his salt is a member of Equity who negotiate standard rates on behalf of all of it's members (which is pretty much everyone).

          Anything with music it means repeat fees for the composers. Again this is enforced by the unions/trade bodies.

          Anything that uses a writer then he also gets a repeat fee.

          So what you left with?

          Well I know of one type of show where the performers don't get repeat fees. You might still need to pay a few quid for any music used but pretty much all the cost are paid up front.......

          Panel shows.

          And frankly if I want endless repeats of QI then I have Dave for that (incidentally the low fees make it cheap to broadcast).

  3. The BigYin

    Why not leave it as it is now?

    The "catch-up" Window is perfect and is very handy when a programme is missed or the PVR had a freak. I'd pay to watch older archives, but after a while I'd consider even them to be public domain (although I totally understand that infrastructure is not a free and a notional charge may be still needed). Of course, that leads us into the modern mess that is copyright and related muck (e.g. 113%).

    Would I pay the BBC though? Probably not.

    Because I have something against the BBC or the idea in general? No. Simply because in a digital economy it is much easier to by-pass the middle man and go straight to the source. And as what I prefer to watch is hard to get in the UK (due to the artificial barriers on free-trade) then that is the route I would probably follow.

  4. dotdavid


    ...implement the store, have as much stuff as you can free (if rights allow) and have other stuff paid. Simples.

    Then when the Public can't get Spooks for free, they can pressurise the production company or whoever is the copyright holdout directly to relax the restrictions.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: So...

      They may well be able to provide some stuff free, and I think it would be great if they could.

      But, production companies are in it to make a living. So too are actors, most of whom aren't fabulously wealthy. I'm not honestly sure that pressure from the public is likely to make them decide that they'll give away access to their material for nothing, whether or not it's been broadcast on the BBC. How many companies do you think are going to do that? Or will they just say "Sod it, we'll take out shows to Sky"

      Hopefully prices via Project Barcelona won't be very much; all the indications seem to be that they're talking of relatively small figures, and that may well be sufficient to ensure people do buy; price it equivalent to, say, a full price DVD, though, and things will be very different.

      1. nexsphil

        Re: So...

        No. The BBC will supply the funding to the production companies on behalf of licence payers, then take a fee from overseas customers. Not one person here has made the idiotic argument you are straw-manning here. I seriously hope this isn't a sign the Reg is being used as a propaganda platform. All this only days after we brought Orlowski back to the light side. ;)

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Re: So...

          A propaganda platform! Aha, so that's what those people in overcoats were up to when they sidled up to me on my way home the other night and said "Hey, why don't you write something about Project Barcelona; we need to get the right message out there, soften up the public"

          Yep, that must be it...

          1. nexsphil

            propaganda platform

            Well that 'argument' convinced me. From now on I'll forever discount the possibility of online 'opinion massage' where large profits are involved. That would be communist. No, sorry I meant terrorist. Partisan? Sorry, I'm a bit behind with the latest simian-shepherding trigger words.

      2. Toxteth O'Gravy

        Re: So...

        The BBC claims Barcelona will be non-exclusive, so its material will be available to iTunes et al. So it's unlikely to cost much more than those services charge from simple competition logic.

        Then again the BBC does rather believe its name is a label of quality - not so, not so... - so may well price more just for that...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      indeed - and every time you hit a "pay me now" page on iplayer, the beeb could give a break down of who will be collecting what fraction of the payment. Then we'd know who to be annoyed at.

      I don't mind paying some small sum, at least in principle. Whether or not I'd actually ever want to watch something enough to pay it is more debatable.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[We must fleece customers...

    and anyone who disagrees is a freetard]"

    You sound like a Merkin political talking head. "[Here's one argument used by some of the opposition, and here's an edge case (Spooks) that I will use to conclusively prove I am correct.]"

    At the end of the day, it's ultimately the BBC's problem to come up with a valid business model that keeps their customers happy. Customers feel - and rightly so IMHO - that there is some level of entightlement to said content due to the Beeb's funding model and license fees, so the BBC does have a problem if they think they can get market rates for online episodes from users that have already paid the license fees.

    By implying that anyone who disagrees with your stance is obviously too stupid to understand the Spooks case, or costs associated with digital conversion, or (come on, this is El Reg FFS) that <gasp> infrastructure isn't free, you have really lost the plot.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: "[We must fleece customers...

      That's a curious reading of the piece, I think. I don't think Spooks is an edge case in any way at all; there's a pretty high proportion of programmes produced by independents - just look at the logos at the end of all those shows. And this explains the standard rights (which, of course, likely lag the technology by some way):

      And for older programmes, there are the issues like residuals; so, for a pretty large number of programmes - certainly not just an 'edge case' - the BBC does not have the unfettered ability to do whatever it wants, with no reference to anyone else.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nigel

        I did not mean to imply that the BBC should be running around willy-nilly giving away other people's property for free, and my apologies if I was so unclear that I came across that way.

        Also, I am not a freetard. or at least, I don't think I am... : )

    2. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: "[We must fleece customers...

      Look at it this way - you can either pay a token sum to see something that's in the BBC archives, or you can not pay anything and leave the stuff to rot in there. The BBC license covers the commissioning and broadcasting, it never covered (or was intended to cover) digital remastering, storage, indexing and downloading, simply because a vast percentage of the BBC archives was created in an era when download distribution was not feasible, or not even thinkable, or indeed before digital.

      I think it's fair enough to ask punters to pay for the material just as long as it's priced at cost. (Taking into account initial cost of the infrastructure, ongoing maintenance and updates etc) .

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "[We must fleece customers...

        Channel 4 don't charge for access to alot of their old stuff, and they don't receive massive amounts of public money.

        I would feel offended if they asked to pay for access to old material, they get enough as licence fee as it is. If they can't afford it why not kick off some of the overpaid presenters they keep knocking around.

        I don't think many people would mind if they showed Chris Moyles the door.

        1. cyborg

          Re: "[We must fleece customers...

          They do utilise advertising on 4OD however.

          I imagine that would be problimatic for the BBC.

          Also the BBC have considerably deeper archives being that Channel 4 is about half the age of the television portion of the BBC.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "[We must fleece customers...

          his 7 million or so listeners would probably disagree

          well they certainly don't listen to his show for the music anyway!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: James

        "Look at it this way - you can either pay a token sum to see something that's in the BBC archives, or you can not pay anything and leave the stuff to rot in there."

        I think you missed a few key nuances in what I wrote. I never said "fully" entitled, nor did I ever say that the BBC has to give it away for free. There is *A LOT* of potential middle ground between:

        A.) "[we're going to charge everyone (in particular, people who are paying license fees) market rates for access to the archive]"


        2.) "[the BBC must give away free access to everything they have ever aired to anyone who has ever payed a license fee]"

        Those are both the extreme ends of the spectrum, and in case it wasn't clear... I disagree with both (not just the first option).

        In fact, I have *no disagreement* with your statement that "I think it's fair enough to ask punters to pay for the material just as long as it's priced at cost" - I think that is one of many potential middle ground approaches that could work here.

        My personal opinion on the matter is that they should have their Project Barcelona (as it is a download service) and keep it as a for-profit just like their DVD service, but they should also look at a streaming service (a la Lovefilm, Netflix or Hulu/Hulu+) of some flavor at little (like you propose, at cost) to no charge (advertiser funded?) for licensees... *and* consider making that streaming service available, for-profit, for people who are not licensees.

        Regardless, I still feel the situation is not nearly as A.) or B.) as the author - IMHO - presents.

        1. AndrewInIreland

          Re: James

          I do think the DVD argument is the best way to defend this. No licence payer gets the DVDs for free, so why should an alternative method of content delivery be any different?

          Another example would be: We in the Republic of Ireland indirectly pay a fee for the UK channels. But this means that we don't even get the version of iPlayer that's available in the UK. We get the Worldwide version; some free content but the rest is €6.99 a month.

    3. Shannon Jacobs

      Suggested alternative business model in two stages:

      As a constructive suggestion, here is a completely different economic model:

      (1) Sell time-based subscriptions. This is not a new idea, and would allow for the usual unlimited Web access during the period of subscription.

      (2) Let the subscribers use their subscription payments as credits to buy 'virtual shares' in various programs or projects. No loss to the BBC since they'd already be holding the money, but the subscribers would also vote with their wallets. For example, a subscriber could buy a share to become one of the virtual sponsors of a particular episode of Dr Who. Or the BBC could create a proposal for an investigative news story, but not actually commit their resources until enough subscribers had signed up for virtual shares to justify it.

      (3) Use the force of technology. (Luke, use the force!) Most explicitly, by using a streaming P2P version of BitTorrent, they could reduce their Internet distribution costs almost to zero.

      (4) Use creative marketing. For example, elective advertising for programs for non-subscribers. The person could select the file based on the advertiser, and this would provide valuable feedback to the advertisers, while not costing the BBC much of anything for distribution, per (3). In my own case, I would certainly select a version with 10 minutes of tolerable advertising over a version that included 1 minute of oil company propaganda. Shouldn't the oil companies know how much they are hated? (Or pick your least favorite advertiser...)

      Here is a more detailed explanation of a couple of possible implementations:

      (Yes, I should rewrite it with consolidation, but why bother? Certainly not because the BBC motivates me to do so.)

  6. nexsphil

    5bn during 2011

    Rather insulting tone to this article I think. A few token BBC expenses pulled out to illustrate the concept of "cost" to us, then a completely insubstantiated conclusion 'pay for this too or the money will come directly from new programme development'. Rubbish. The BBC brought in 5bn in total income during 2011 ( They're seriously playing with fire if they think this won't reignite the 'why the hell is the law being used to jack me for £150 a year again?' kerfuffle. People would be much more charitable toward the BBC were legal coercion not used to extract funding. So don't expect joy & rainbows from this little proposal - especially when there are many programmes they will easily make a killing on from non-UK residents, like Top Gear, Masterchef and Doctor Who.

  7. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A new start

    The BBC is not exactly known for it's efficiency: cost or otherwise. It also has very little incentive to be fiscally responsible, since it effectively gets it's annual billions without having to lift a finger. Consequently, they are probably not the best choice for providing a cost-effective service to restore, convert, catalog and host what must be petabytes of "stuff" that people may wish to download.

    Maybe what needs to happen is that all the BBC archives are wrested from their control, they concentrate on broadcasting programmes and let a separate body - built with a sound commercial basis (i.e. not a quasi-governmental body) deal with the online stuff. Considering the BBCs history, and charter, it's questionable whether they could justify their existing online presence - let alone serving gigabytes to millions of households on a daily basis. If there was to be a different organisation created, they could be given a more contemporary remit - and without the baggage that the BBC currently has. You never know, if the new guys started to make a profit, they could even start commissioning programmes of their own.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A new start

      You appear to have missed the reality that most of what used to be BBC Technology, BBC R+D, BBC Transmission, etc has already been Bangalored to the likes of Siemens, Arqiva, etc.

      Efficiency and cost-effectiveness left the BBC when Blair's "special adviser" Birt moved in as DG. Cronyism and OTT expenses took over (as any Private Eye reader will know), and it will take a long time (if it's even going to be possible) for the BBC to recover the breadth and quality of programming which the Birt era replaced with overpriced formulaic "producer choice" dross.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This service is already available

    It's called LoveFilm

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Digitally archived

    Not necessarily. It took the BBC something like 5 years to transfer all their 2" Quad tapes to D3 in the 90's. And that only covers surviving material until circa 1983 (remember just how much stuff was junked in the 60's and 70's). I must admit I am out of touch about any project to transfer tape based material to servers but it would take years and years. The sheer amount of tape they have is mind boggling and of course it needs to be transferred in real time. Just because all the Quads (and possibly C-format's) are now on digital tape doesn't remove all the tedious real time transfers from D3 to server.

    And then you hit the tapes that have problems and faults. It's a huge huge project that I daresay is ongoing.

    A quick search on Google reveals the BBC possess 340,000 D3 tapes alone of which they plan to ingest 100,000 to a server based system (the other 240,000 will stay in archive until required). And that's just the D3 collection!

  10. Spotfist


    Nice tall horse you're sat on there el'Reg.

    If the BBC make people pay for iplayer content piracy of said content will go through the roof! Where can I place this bet?

    1. nexsphil

      Re: Optional

      ...which is a fantastic boon for those that would profit from more draconian 'anti-piracy' laws. You're hardly going to get more laws passed without huge numbers illustrating the 'problem' to back you up. This is a very common tactic - impose unreasonable restrictions, watch piracy figures increase, moan to government that something needs to be done about piracy, get draconian measures installed that artificially create a business model for you by eliminating civil liberties in the area, profit.

    2. Some Beggar
      Thumb Down

      Re: Optional

      Nice straw man you're arguing with there, Spotfist. This isn't about making people play for the current iPlayer content, it is about offering archive material online.

      (I appreciate that you would have needed to actually read the article to grasp this terribly subtle point.)

      1. Spotfist

        Re: Optional

        I did read the article, I didn't specify any kind of actual content, current or archived.

        My real beef here is that the BBC have the time and money to come up with a better solution than making people pay for something twice, it may only be archived data now but where will it end? People would complain about the use of payed for advertising within iplayer but why are they not selling all of the iplayer content abroad?

        Why is it that joe public becomes the first target?

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: Optional

          Targetting Joe Public is called Capitalism.

          If you don't like it then I hear there are some lovely re-education camps in North Korea.

          1. Oninoshiko

            Re: Optional

            WHAT, prey-tell does the beeb have to do with Capitalism?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: What does the beeb have to do with Capitalism?

              You mean, apart from being better at it than ITV?

            2. Some Beggar

              Re: Optional


              The article is about the BBC's commercial activities. Which bit of this are you struggling with?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suspect

    the rational 99% of the population (that's those who actually buy stuff at the moment) will cough up for programs they want in the same way they are now prepared to buy BBC DVDs. As long as the price is reasonable and the selection good.

    The mentioned poll only has 145 votes so far, and like this forum, I suspect those voting are far from typical of the average digital content consumer.

    If the idea of the BBC selling archive content offends you that much...don't buy it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I suspect

      "If the idea of the BBC selling archive content offends you that much...don't buy it." True and easy enougn. However, there is a problem in that the BBC will still take out the money from the licence fee that we in the UK pay (with due detrimental effect on 'new' programming) in order to fund the infrastructure required to digitise (and DRM it) as well as store that content in a suitable form for iPlayer/streaming delivery - I note that there is nothing about the BBC having done any market research to establish if such licence fee expenditure could ever be recovered by the download fees that *might* be reciepted - Where's the business case?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I suspect

        " that the BBC will still take out the money from the licence fee that we in the UK pay"

        That is an assumption based on no evidence. For all you (or I) know the BBC project P&L is offsetting income from sales for remastering etc.

  12. Arrrggghh-otron

    Not free, just not expensive.

    Where the Beeb don't exclusively own the rights or haven't negotiated streaming rights, then by all means charge, but don't expect me to pay £1.89 (as was quoted in the last related article) per episode.

    Where the Beeb does own the exclusive rights. Free.

    For future productions for the Beeb, it should negotiate better rights or make more stuff themselves.

    The recurring payments argument is great and all, but spare a thought for the rest of us who just get badly paid once for the work we do and told to F off if we don't like it!

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Not free, just not expensive.

      If you produce IP and you only get paid for it once then you're doing it wrong. I'm not sure you can hold Auntie Beeb responsible for your lack of business acumen.

      1. Arrrggghh-otron

        Re: Not free, just not expensive.

        I produce IP, it is fleeting, usually bespoke and for a small audience. It takes the form of solutions to problems. Once the IP has been produced, it is acted out and the resulting actions are considered the final product. I believe most of us call it work...

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: Not free, just not expensive.

          So you're growing apples and complaining about the price of oranges.

          I'm still baffled.

      2. Chet Mannly

        Re: Not free, just not expensive.

        "If you produce IP and you only get paid for it once then you're doing it wrong. I'm not sure you can hold Auntie Beeb responsible for your lack of business acumen."

        Except in this case the user is paying for it to be produced in the first place.

        If you (are forced to) pay to produce IP then pay *again* to watch it, then you're doing it wrong.

        Either stop charging the licence fee (or reduce it significantly) or provide the IP created by the licence fee free to licence payers.

        Obviously that doesn't apply to shows that are produced by other companies, but shown on the BBC.

        1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

          Re: Not free, just not expensive.

          "Except in this case the user is paying for it to be produced in the first place."

          No. The License Fee covers a small proportion of the BBC's expenses and—here's the crucial bit everyone seems to have missed—the BBC are REQUIRED to use external production houses for a set proportion of their output. (I forget what the exact percentage is, but it's somewhere in the range of 40-60% bracket, I think.)

          "Spooks" is therefore NOT "owned" by the BBC. They merely paid to license it. The BBC may have fronted up some, most, or even all, of the up-front costs—for which they got the rights to have first dibs on broadcasting the show. The BBC might even have finagled a distribution contract deal through their BBC Worldwide arm too, so they get a bit more money out of it.

          But remember that for every success like "Spooks", there's at least one utter failure like "Bonekickers" which disappears without a trace after a single season. And usually rather more than one. The BBC needs to balance the books, so every hit ends up paying for a bunch of misses.

          The BBC's former Director General, John Birt, is also responsible for the second greatest f*ck-up in privatisation history, (second only to the privatisation of British Rail). He literally forced every single department—every producer, every studio, etc.—to "compete" with each other for work! This farce is named "Producer Choice" and means every show's producer must choose whether to make a show in-house, or farm it out to a third-party service provider. As a result of Birt's blinkered stupidity, a shitload of BBC employees suddenly found themselves working as freelancers and consultants... for a hell of a lot more money than they'd have made if they'd stayed in-house. John Birt is truly the heir to the throne to the Kingdom of Idiot.

          The upshot of all this is that, no, the BBC often does not "own" much of what the public think it does. Look at the closing credits of "Red Dwarf" and you'll see that the later series were produced by "Grant Naylor Productions". Every single episode of "Have I Got News For You" was made by "Hat Trick", and so on. (Ironically, there are even programmes in the BBC's archives produced by the remnants of Thames Television!) And the same is true for a lot of radio productions too now.

          Take a good close look at the end titles of a lot of BBC programming and you'll be surprised at just how many hit shows are actually made outside of the BBC.

          The BBC are also well aware that they may not be able to rely on the TV License fee for much longer. (Never mind that the same fee is also paying for the rollout of rural broadband and a bunch of other projects; the BBC doesn't get all of it anyway.)

        2. JohnMurray

          Re: Not free, just not expensive.

          Except the licence fee is paid to enable people to watch any broadcast televison, even satellite.

          The government gives most of the dosh to the beeb, so arguably the government is paying, not people !

          now, if people wanted to be real freetards, they could NOT purchase a television licence and then only watch TV iplayer, As long as the live video streaming was not viewed it would be perfectly legal.

          And in any case, you can download and view, and store, iplayer programming on a linux-based device without time/storage constraints.

  13. TeeCee Gold badge

    Eating your cake and having it there.

    It's simple. Either:

    1) Make it free.

    2) End the license fee and move to an entirely commercial funding model.

    There is no third option unless you are a weasel in smart suit.

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Eating your cake and having it there.

      What's the weather like in Simplistic Black and White World?

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Eating your cake and having it there.

        If you're British, you were already forced to pay for this stuff. Charging you again is just double dipping. The old stuff should be liberated to the public domain anyways.

        If you want to charge the rest of us that have never paid a TV license, then that's another matter.

        1. Some Beggar

          Re: Eating your cake and having it there.

          Good grief. I'm wondering how many times this point needs to be reiterated in the same thread. I'm going to have a wild guess at thirty times. I think we're already in double figures.

          Paying for something once in one format does not mean you have a god-given right to receive it free in every other medium that exists or is yet to be invented.

          I paid to see Star Wars in the cinema. It is older than most of the material the BBC is talking about making available with this new service. Should it be placed in the public domain? Should I be given the latest 3D blu ray for free? Derp derp a herp di derp derp. Herp derp?

          1. JEDIDIAH

            Some people just don't get socialism...

            This isn't about paying for something produced by Hollywood at the local Tesco.

            This about your government taxes paying for something and then someone else trying to make you pay for that same thing again.

            1. Some Beggar
              Thumb Down

              Re: Some people just don't get socialism...

              See my reply here:



  14. TheProf


    ..... I paid to see a film at the cinema. Why the hell should I have to pay again to have a copy on DVD?

    Oy! Sky. You want people to pay for those Pratchett stories you filmed? But they already paid a subscription. That should more than cover the cost of shiny discs for me.

    Buy a live recording of a band I went to see play live? Pshaw!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But.....

      The problem with that analogy is that all the Pratchett films are available for download on Anytime+. Download to Sky box and toggle the "keep" flag. Job done.

      You of course are being deliberately disingenuous by introducing physical format.

      Away with you.

    2. Toxteth O'Gravy
      Thumb Up

      Re: But.....

      Yes, and I bought the book on which the movie was based, so not only should I get to see it at the pictures for nowt, but I should get the DVD, the BD and the download for free too!!! And I want a gratis T-Shirt too.

      Nice comment, Prof

    3. Chet Mannly

      Re: But.....

      "But... I paid to see a film at the cinema. Why the hell should I have to pay again to have a copy on DVD?"

      Did you pay to PRODUCE the movie in the first place as the licence payers are with BBC programs?

      Or do you think George Lucas pays for his own Star Wars DVD's?

      *slaps forehead*

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: But.....

        @Chet Mannly

        You seem to be under the impression that TV license payers somehow own the rights to the material produced by the BBC. Is that your argument?

        Could you point me at the items of UK copyright law that lead you to this impression? Because as far as I can tell it is complete and utter bunkum. The TV license is a hypothecated tax, it isn't a share ownership scheme or mutual cooperative*.

        Take a different example. Many countries (including the US and the UK) have a variety of hypothecated taxes that pay for the transport infrastructure. No matter how much of that tax you pay, you don't personally own any of the asphalt. If the government decides to use the system in a different way or charge for it in a different way then you don't get a free slice. You just get to vote for or against them at the next election.

        (* it might be in Cuba, say, but somehow I don't think you live in Cuba)

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Personally I don't mind...

    I'd rather pay as I go for any/all content than sign up for contracts like Sky/Virgin when I don't really get value for money as I have better things to do most of the time.

    That said I do think the licence fee is currently very good value, I watch a lot of BBC between live and iPlayer for the equivalent of ~£12 a month, per hour of entertainment it easily betters anything else I use to amuse myself when on the sofa. People who want the whole archive for free on iPlayer are clearly just the "moon-on-a-stick-for-free-NOW" brigade and need a reality check - things cost money and if you want it you have to pay for what it costs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Personally I don't mind...

      "People who want the whole archive for free on iPlayer"...

      Are just people who want to understand why the very public BBC commitment made in 2003 has been abandoned without justification.

      1. Audrey S. Thackeray

        Re: the very public BBC commitment made in 2003

        Here's what Dyke said:

        Just imagine your child comes home from school with homework to makea presentation to the class on lions, or dinosaurs, or Argentina or on the industrial revolution.

        He or she goes to the nearest broadband connection - in the library, the school or even at home - and logs onto the BBC library.

        They search for real moving pictures which would turn their project into an exciting multi-media presentation.

        They download them and, hey presto, they are able to use the BBC material in their presentation for free.

        Now that is a dream which we will soon be able to turn into reality.

        We intend to allow parts of our programmes, where we own the rights, to be available to anyone in the UK to download so long as they don't use them for commercial purposes.

        Under a simple licensing system, we will allow users to adapt BBC content for their own use.

        We are calling this the BBC Creative Archive.

        When complete, the BBC will have taken a massive step forward in opening our content to all - be they young or old, rich or poor.

        But then it's not really our content - the people of Britain have paid for it and our role should be to help them use it.

        Or was there another occasion when he promised he'd give you someone else's stuff for free?

        1. Pete 2 Silver badge

          A lucky escape

          " child comes home from school with homework to make a presentation ... logs onto the BBC library. They search for real moving pictures ... They download them and, hey presto, they are able to use the BBC material in their presentation for free."

          And hey presto the child gets a FAIL for plagiarism - though I suppose that in 2003 nobody was too concerned with that.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: the very public BBC commitment made in 2003

          Who's asking for him to give the viewers other people's stuff for free?

          I'd just like Dyke's successors to explain why Dyke's announced commitment hasn't been delivered. The technology exists, no sensible person is asking for the BBC to deliver stuff to which they don't own the rights, but there is huge quantities of stuff to which the BBC undoubtedly owns the rights which hasn't been made available in line with the published commitment.

          Obviously it couldn't be done with Birt-and-beyond content where the chance of the BBC owning anything worthwhile are almost infinitesimal. But that still leaves plenty of stuff.

          Or is the realtity that the BBC archive has actually been privatised (exclusively?) to the likes of Dave, Yesterday, etc (the ones which are part BBC owned?) and they were hoping no one would notice the previous commitment is lost if the exclusivity deal was done on the quiet?

          1. Audrey S. Thackeray

            Re: the very public BBC commitment made in 2003

            If you want to know what did / will happen to the Creative Archive the BBC site suggests you contact Tony Ageh who is the controller of archive development.

            They will probably say it was piloted and closed at the end of that pilot and that there are no current plans to re-open the project but they are continuing to explore how the archive might be used. Or something similarly bland.

            My guess is that it was complicated both legally and technically and therefore expensive, and as it brought in no revenue was an easy option for trimming.

            The then controller of the BBC, during a public lecture, said he was going to do something, it was started then abandoned - better than many promises made by politicians about things that are actually important.

  16. qwarty

    bbc dvds

    Rarely touch a DVD nowadays but last time I looked at the boxed sets of Dr. Who, the BBC wanted more per hour playtime than the commercial US companies, compare stargate, 24, etc.

    BBC have a bad track record for charging.

    1. Petrea Mitchell

      Re: bbc dvds

      Was that counting the extras or just the footage originally shown on TV?

      Not saying you're wrong to want a basic DVD with just the TV episodes if that's what you want, but as a hardcore classic-Who fan who appreciates the enormous amount of extra material, I feel that having all that available justifies the higher price.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: bbc dvds

        If you are paying full price for the original series DVD's then you are doing it wrong anyway. Wait a little while and many can be picked up for a fiver on a popular retailer named after a river.

        Although I am a hypocrite as yesterday I took delivery of The Deamons (released this week). After not having paid full price or bought on the day of release since I stopped buying in WH Smiths some 8/9 years ago I feel slightly dirty. But I just couldn't resist!

        Online retailers have changed everything. In the old days you'd be terrified that if you didn't snap something up in the shop you'd never see a copy again once it dropped out of the charts. These days the online retailers have access to such large stocks that everything gets discounted massively once it's been out for a few months.


      Too rich for my blood.

      I am by no means a "freetard". I have quite a pile of purchased spinny disks. However, I am not made of money. The prices for BBC stuff on DVD is kind of outrageous. It's pretty much the most expensive stuff out there except for StarTrek. Although classic DrWho even has StarTrek DVDs beat.

      That means that BBC material is low on my shopping list. That means that the greedy sods aren't making any money off me. Someone else is.

      If it's not priced low enough to be an "impulse buy" then procrastination is the likely result.

  17. Richard Tobin
    Thumb Down

    Unrealistic pricing

    The author seems to think that because the BBC can't make all programs available free, anyone who won't pay to download them is being unrealistic. Why? Maybe, like me, they just don't think it's worth the money. The TV licence is 40p/day, so why would I pay more than a few pence to watch a single program? The suggested £1.89 is absurd.

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: Unrealistic pricing

      "Let the market decide."

      If the price is unrealistic then it'll change. It sounds pretty high to me too but just because you and I might not pay it doesn't mean it isn't the going rate.

      It could simply be a case of testing the water and seeing how many people go "ouch".

  18. MonkeyBot

    How about a mixed model...

    We charge foreigners and use the money to fund it being free for us.

    1. Armando 123

      Re: How about a mixed model...

      I thought about that, as a bloody Yank, no less. I'm never for fleecing us taxpayers (*), wherever they are, and it seems that citizens of the UK who pay a license fee should get the free ... or at most at a quite minimal price to help cover the costs of conversions, servers, etc.

      (*) With certain exceptions like those at the IRS. At this time of year. I admit that I'm too bitter to be objective on that point.

      1. admiraljkb

        Re: How about a mixed model...

        I agree. I WANT BBC programming streaming in the US, and can't get it.. I'll pay per episode or whatever, but since I'm not a UK taxpayer, I don't expect any discounts. At the same time, I am flabbergasted at the BBC Classic Series DVD prices (like Dr Who). Since its sunk cost and content already paid for by UK Taxpayers, shouldn't they sell classic content for cheaper and go for VOLUME to recover taxpayer costs for the UK while still paying the residuals, and help produce more content?

        If I were a UK taxpayer who'd been funding the programming, I'd expect substantial discounts on the streaming, since that programming was taxpayer funded. I'd definitely expect the BBC to heavily sell it overseas and let that offset my usage as a taxpayer as well. The Beebs seems to be mixed up though, since it is technically commercial, while it is still a quasi-government entity who answers to the Government. (kinda like the USPS in that regard). The BBC has the opportunity to make some serious money, but it won't bother to pursue it due to the civil service mentality that seems to run through much of it. Or at least that's my take on it. I could wrong, and if I am, someone from the UK fix the above for me. :)

    2. Petrea Mitchell
      Thumb Up

      Re: How about a mixed model...

      No argument here! I would love to pay for being able to watch some of the BBC's fine programs online shortly after their broadcast, if only the BBC would take my filthy foreign money!

  19. jswinterburn
    Thumb Up

    I think they should split the fee, the usual £12 per month (or whatever it is) for the live stuff and iPlayer and an extra £6 per month for the back catalogue - I'd totally pay that.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the BBC commissioned the work....

    ....then wtf should the licence fee payers pay again?

    Is it the licence fee payers fault that the BBC fail to get a decent copyright deal? No, its people like Yentob responsible for that.

    Logically if the licence fee payer funded (ie commissioned) the programme then the licence fee payer should be entitled to view that programme whenever they want. We paid and the programme wouldn't have existed in the current format if we hadn't.

    How I know there's all sorts of viewing/licencing/copyright crap here but the bottom line for the average BBC viewer is "WE HAVE ALREADY PAID".

    I do hope the BBC carry on with Project Barcelona as it will greatly accelerate the demise of the licence fee. I know that last statement will get me loads of downvotes but I object to funding a state-controlled (very mediocre and increasingly biased) broadcaster on penalty of prison.

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....

      My prescription might need updating but I keep staring at your post and all I can see is "boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo"

    2. Toxteth O'Gravy

      Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....

      You HAVE ALREADY PAID (your caps) to watch a programme *on broadcast*. You have NOT PAID (my caps) to watch it whenever you feel like it. It's the latter the BBC/ITV/C4/Sky/HBO/whoever is charging you for when you buy a download/disc/videotape.

      iPlayer catch-up is provided as a bonus, not as a right. It is there to help you if you missed a show, not so you can keep watching it until the day you die.

      Why do so many people here have such a problem understanding this?

      BTW, the way to square the circle is to provide downloads for free but hardwire into them the ads that pay for them.

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....

        "iPlayer catch-up is provided as a bonus"

        A cynic might suggest that the various catch-up services (including the branded PVRs that time limit recordings) are designed to dissuade people from buying unrestricted PVRs and keeping copies of recorded telly forever and ever and ever.

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....

          Which PVRs time limit recordings? I can't think of any off the top of my head. I can think of those that don't allow offloading of content, but certainly on the free to air platforms, I've never seen auto-expiry of content, which seems to be what you're suggesting.

          1. Some Beggar

            Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....

            @Nigel Whitfield

            Ah. I thought Sky/Virgin PVRs time limited pay-per-view and premium stuff? I might well be wrong.

            The basic point remains though, I think: they would all prefer you to use their own boxes and services so that they retain some control over what you can watch and when rather than having you record and horde it all yourself.

            1. Nigel Whitfield.

              Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....

              Yes, on some paid content, there are restrictions - though it's more generally where if you record something from a channel, and no longer have that channel in your package, you can't watch the recording.

              On the old TopUpTV service, if you didn't watch something within a certain time, and the keys rolled over on the viewing card, then you might not be able to watch; that's more an artefact of the way a CI module works than a deliberate business decision.

              But for free to air programming, there aren't any expiry mechanisms. In some cases, there are systems that prevent content being transferred from the PVR's hard drive, but that's as far as it goes.

              1. Some Beggar

                Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....

        Oh I see. Its provided "as a bonus".

        WTF do you think pays for that you fucktard? WTF paid for the massive expansion in BBC online services which at the time formed no part of the BBCs charter? Ditto IP transit - some of us remember when the BBC was one of the biggest transatlantic IP transit providers.

        Get out, you know nothing about the BBC and its activities.

        The BBC is funded by forcing people to pay for whatever the state considers to be "good".

        With the exception of BBC Bristol (Nature/Science) the BBC has been utter crap for a decade. If you live in the SE of England it probably meets your needs perfectly as that's where 90% of BBC "content" is produced.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @John Naismith, 17:30

          Very vitriolic there, John. Let me guess - the Beeb wouldn't buy one of your scripts or something? Or given your last sentence, are you just another generic disgruntled Notherner?

        2. Some Beggar

          Re: If the BBC commissioned the work....

          Perhaps you should have a nice cup of tea and a sit down, John. There's probably something soothing on BBC2.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two points

    Point 1: Does the article say anything about ***HOW MUCH*** people might pay, and for what exactly? Why not? There's a difference between 20p for a single programme, £2 for a single programme, and £2 for a complete series, with or without DRM.

    Point 2:

    "Greg Dyke, director general of the BBC, has announced plans to give the public full access to all the corporation's programme archives.

    Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet.

    The service, the BBC Creative Archive, would be free and available to everyone, as long as they were not intending to use the material for commercial purposes."

    Nothing I've seen has explained what exactly has changed to justify breaking Dyke's public commitment to the people who actually fund the BBC and the programme makers.

    Source: BBC News 1993

    [continued below the silly fade]

    "The BBC probably has the best television library in the world," said Mr Dyke, who was speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

    "Up until now this huge resource has remained locked up, inaccessible to the public because there hasn't been an effective mechanism for distribution.

    "But the digital revolution and broadband are changing all that. "


    Full unedited speech at

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Two points

      Seeing as I'm such a nice person, I shall see if I can find an answer for you, though it may take time. The Press Office is not always swift to respond, even to its sleeper agents.

      1. David Shaw

        Re: Two points

        as a helpful guide, my newly invigorated AppleTV h/w version 2 , running Software 5.0 , which has on-device Apple ID sign up for 'content partners' , really surprised me with the breadth of partners available. The days of narrowcast internet-only TV are approaching!

        I think having played with the ATV menu's that the series 7 of Mythbusters (through Discovery Channel partner) was £58 (fifty-eight quid). This was a 'whole series purchase' only. I think BBC and C4 were present on the partner list but I use FreeSat PVR with a humungous local archive instead so didn't look what Apple/BBC think is a 'reasonable' price. (just checked on iTunes and my reference Mythbusters S7 £58 is available at £1.89 per episode, interestingly Mythbusters S6 (2009) is £43 for the series , S5 (2008) £25, S4 (2007) £22, whilst S3 (also 2007) is down to £19 for the series) There's some long-tail in the pricing...

        Of course Auntie will form a committee to report in a few years what they should charge - but I guess it'll be £1.49 per pop

    2. GettinSadda

      Re: Two points

      "Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet."

      The problem seems to be that there is a word missing from that sentence if you want it to be 100% explicit. You seem to think the sentence means:

      "Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download all BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet."

      Whereas I expect that what he meant was:

      "Mr Dyke said on Sunday that everyone would in future be able to download some BBC radio and TV programmes from the internet."

      But of course you are not quoting Mr Dyke's speech - you are quoting a report about the speech. So it is useful to check the original text to see what was actually said. Oh yes...

      "We intend to allow parts of our programmes, where we own the rights, to be available to anyone in the UK to download so long as they don't use them for commercial purposes."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two points

        Of course I'm quoting selectively, but as luck would have it I am familiar with the full speech, hence the link to the full speech below the silly fade.

        I don't see that there's been any significant attempt to deliver anything seriously resembling the promised Creative Archive. Do you? If so, where is the promised content please?

  22. Pen-y-gors

    It's tricky...

    The licence fee pays the costs of running the broadcast service, including the initial commissioning and (presumably) any repeat fees for broadcast programmes. Setting up a massive digital archive and paying for the bandwidth to provide 75-years-of-BBC-on-demand really isn't covered by the licence fee. And there is a fair point about 'residuals' payments. So some sort of charge isn't unreasonable - but £1.89 for a 30-minute episode is taking the piss. The licence fee is 40p a day, for which you get to watch each episode of Dr Who at least 30 times every year. 20p per hour for archive downloads seems more reasonable, and perhaps some sort of unlimited subscription option (£30 a year?)

  23. Anonymous Coward


    There's very little that can be repeated for 'free" due to the issue of actors and writers repeat fees and any music rights.

    The BBC also have to ensure they keep the paperwork up to date to send the relevant payments to relevant parties. This cost has to be worked in. Rights can be mind bogglingly complicated.

    In some cases writers/actors need to give permission for repeats to be shown. Remember the debacle over The Professionals? Martin Shaw refused to let The Professionals be repeated until he was made aware that the widow of Gordon Jackson had fallen on hard times and really needed the income.

    In short, very little can be shown for "free" and that's not the fault of the BBC.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Rights examples

    Just to further illustrate this with a couple of Doctor Who examples that I know of. Everytime a Dalek appears in a story Terry Nation is also paid a fee regardless of he is the writer or not. Likewise every episode K9 is in, a fee is paid to the writer that originally "created" him.

    In both cases none of the poor sods who did the donkey work designing and realising the said creations get a penny because they were BBC staffers. But the people who "created" them on paper did.

    Which is why it all gets so very very messy and why nothing is actually "free".

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Rights examples

      How about the "Dimensions in Time" charity special during Children in Need.

      The rights in that are said to be so Byzantine, that it will never be seen ever again. To some (many?) people that is no great shame. But it is an example of a programme being made without bothering about the needs of future broadcast let alone the internet.

  25. Toxteth O'Gravy

    Get real

    I'm with Nigel on this one. Just because you pay a subscription fee (legally enforced in this case) doesn't grant you free and perpetual access to broadcast content after the two-week(?) period assigned you by UK copyright law. Never has, and probably never will. Content isn't free - it has to be paid for when it's made. Creators should be paid - they have mortgages too - and if a new delivery mechanism comes along, they have a right (moral and legal) to a share of the proceeds.

    Don't like that? Limit yourself to YouTube.

    I buy Doctor Who DVDs and have bought other shows in the past. Buying a download is no different for most folks, and is only so for me because I refuse to buy into DRM. I spent lots on VHS too, now replaced for convenience as much as quality.

    1. Jon Press


      As far as I understand it, the majority of recent productions are "buy outs" in which the creators (or the majority of them) don't get any residuals. Much like those shows that go into "syndication" in the US and produce no further return to the original artists. I'm not sure exactly what the position is with the endlessly-repeated shows (like Dad's Army), but I suspect their constant appearance is a result of the rights having been secured in perpetuity by one means or another.

      What that means is the money isn't going to the artist, it's going to the production company. Which, in most cases is the BBC or has been bankrolled (or partly bankrolled) by the BBC. If we, the licence/taxpayer has essentially taken the risk to finance the production in the first place and guaranteed it a certain level of return, I don't quite see that offering an unending source of income to the production company has the clout as a moral argument that "creators should be paid" implies.

      Ironically, it is of course the opportunity created by digital media to constantly re-broadcast and re-sell content that led to the idea of a buy-out: too complicated to track all those potential royalties from individual downloads and micropayments and all that potential free money is just too tempting. For corporations, public and private.

  26. JDX Gold badge

    Why even a discussion?

    You don't expect to be able to get BBC content on DVD for free, or free + P&P to burn a DVD and send it to you. Making it digital content doesn't magically change anything.

    You pay your license to watch BBC broadcasting, not get access to their archive.

  27. squilookle

    I have been watching some BBC stuff on Netflix (Robin Hood, Doctor Who, Fawlty Towers), so I have paid (a marginal amount) for access.

    Would I subscribe to a service that provided access only to BBC material? Probably not. I don't want to have separate accounts with different services for each provider, but I'm happy to see the material available on other services I am paying for anyway.

  28. Lallabalalla

    Well if the content's *that* old I'm paying in £sd!

  29. Bassey

    Why the BBC?

    The BBC should only be allowed to enter areas where there is no suitable private alternative. Wasn't that the point of the BBC? Using its unique funding structure to make programs, offer services and take risks that the private sector wouldn't or couldn't afford to?

    So WHY is the BBC offering to do something the private sector is willing to do and would do at a fraction of the cost? By all means make the BBC archives available but do so by allowing private comapnies to bid for the rights to convert and host them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why the BBC?

      The point of the "unique funding structure" is to make the BBC and commercial channels compete for viewers, not revenue. The idea being to keep up the quality of broadcasting. It has been pretty successful compared to the advertiser dominated desert that is US broadcast TV.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I've been downloading now for about 15 years.

    15 bloody years, and still there is no decent legal alternative.

    Broadcast (multicast would be a better term) is a stupid model - it makes no sense today.

    Yet, I am expected to buy a PVR and record everything I want or may in future want to watch of this multicast stream, so I can then watch what I was entitled to watch at the time, when I want to watch it.

    What the hell sense does that model make ? It is totally insane.

    Admittedly, the public are slow to change their habits - most now have PVRs but still sit down to watch the news at 6pm, or sit through the adverts on coronation street - but it is only a matter of time before the wake up and demand personal media when they want it, where they want it surely ?

    I don't have a tv tuner in my house, but I pay my BBC licence fee. However, I choose to download my programs from usenet to watch when I want to watch them, offline, in HD not on crappy iplayer within a week, etc. I choose not to record them on a PVR myself and faff about converting them to mkvs. Again - economies of scale here.

    We have tried to replace an outdated broadcast/multicast tv model, with the exact same model, but added millions of places to store it all over the UK (PVRs). madness.

    My Licence fee funds the BBC. It does not fund the BBC broadcast medium only. If the internet was properly seen as a full delivery channel in its own right, then it would be a step in the right direction.

    Personally I'd be happy if tv (now in its digital form) was confined to history - it is an anachronism. Make the programs, and provide them for people 'purchase' when they want to see em. This can be as a fixed yearly payment (licence) if they chose that model.

    1. Bassey

      Re: pathetic

      "Broadcast (multicast would be a better term) is a stupid model - it makes no sense today."

      "What the hell sense does that model make ? It is totally insane."

      "Admittedly, the public are slow to change their habits - most now have PVRs but still sit down to watch the news at 6pm, or sit through the adverts on coronation street - but it is only a matter of time before the wake up and demand personal media when they want it, where they want it surely ?"

      I'm sure all of this made perfect sense when you wrote it but do you mind explaining WHY broadcast is a "stupid" model, why it is "insane" and why the public will "wake up" and start behaving like you?

      After all, unless TV rules your entire life how do you ever get to find out which programs you might like to watch unless, every once in a while, you just sit down and watch what is being broadcast? I ask this as a parent who hasn't watched TV in about 6 years and now has absolutely no idea what is on that might be worth watching - as best as I can tell, unless you like reality "talent" shows, the answer is "very little".

      Without broadcast we will surely end up with a hollywood model for TV where, once something proves popular, it just gets made over and over until people get sick of it and then they flounce around for a few years producing garbage until someone stumbles upon the next big thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: pathetic

        "how do you ever get to find out which programs you might like to watch"

        reviews on the internet. The same way I decide whether to go to the cinema, etc.

        Actually US tv in particular has got extremely good in the last 6 years if you use reviews*, etc to decide what to watch rather than the scatter gun approach of 'ill waste an hour seeing if I like this broadcast thing'. I think your point about reality shows hits the nail on the head

        - people complain that tv is crap and that 'its all reality shows/cooking programs/etc' and it's because they just switch the tv on and expect to be entertained - I don't walk into a book shop and randomly pull a book of the shelf and expect to like it - if I did I'd probably end up picking one of the 'best sellers' from Jordon or Posh Spice.

        *sopranos, deadwood, Rome, justified, supernatural, etc


        1. admiraljkb

          Re: pathetic

          I would have to pay a LOT extra monthly in the US to get those programs, and HBO only has those on for a short time every year which doesn't justify the money (using the BBC model of quality programming, but short series/seasons).

          However, I'd be willing to fork over money for streaming the programs commercial free (like I already do with Dr Who) to get them on Amazon (or whatever) right after they're broadcast. I think all programming should move that route and commercial and cable TV both go buhbye.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Short form:

    BBC programmes:

    Limited viewing: pay TV license fee

    Unlimited viewing: pay extra fee

    Thanks for that complicated summary of a simple issue.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "very little can be shown for "free" and that's not the fault of the BBC"

    So, you know more about that than BBC DG Greg Dyke did in 2003?

    [last one from me for the moment on the Greg Dyke speech - it's just amusing how all these armchair experts are happy to contradict a high profile public speech from the man who was at the time actually running the BBC]

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: "very little can be shown for "free" and that's not the fault of the BBC"

      Greg Dyke never claimed the BBC would make everything free. Only some of it; names, the stuff the BBC actually have the rights to give away for free. Which isn't as much as people here seem to think.

      Prior to the invention of the VCR, nobody at the BBC considered the possibility of a home video market—hence the infamous recycling of many old tapes of Doctor Who (and others)—so they naturally didn't bother to include clauses regarding future digital distribution in the contracts of those they were hiring to make these programmes either.

      Which means they're going to have to pay for an awful lot of lawyers while they sort that stuff out too.

  33. Craig Chambers

    I don't get it

    I, and presumably a lot of other people paid plenty of money to get BBC content on both video and DVD. In what way is charging the consumer for the same content via an online method any different?

    I admit that when the beeb started releasing materials on video there were no online fora for commentards to kick up a storm, but I personally though it was great that I could suddenly have a copy of my favourite shows to play back any time I liked. Shock, horror I had to PAY for them!

    Back then pirate copies were usually pretty bad and you still had to pay some guy at a market stall to buy them, rather than a 100% faithful copy downloaded via a torrent.

    So other than pirate copies being very accurate and available more anonymously, can anyone explain to me exactly what is different about paying the BBC for a video/DVD and paying for a download?

    I'm not saying I'm whiter than white, but I don't delude myself that the two are really any different simply because copying and redistributing have become both easier and more socially acceptable.

  34. Rob_B

    Micro-transactions FTW!

    £1.89 an episode? not a chance.... 25p? Probably yes.

    I hate the license fee however don't think charging for older content that you wouldn't get to see as things stand should necessarily be free, as mentioned the transfer/hosting/bandwidth isn't free so I don't mind a little charge but the figures floated about (that lets face it are probably spot on) are sheer madness. Its an optional extra.

    The comments made by the BBC previously regarding content access were maybe a little short sighted?

  35. Dangermouse 1

    Agreed about the cost! BT seem to think that charging nearly £2 per episode is a sensible price for programmes on their catch up TV service. Surprisingly, I have never bought a single one.

  36. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    I don't mind paying for downloads if they are high quality and DRM-free. But they won't be (not the latter, for sure).

    If they cease making DVDs, torrents or some such thing will be my only option.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a deal

    I'll pay £1.89 for each repeat I want to watch if the BBC takes £1.89 off my licence fee for every repeat they show that I didn't ask for.


  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Archive - definition

    There is obviously 2 arguments going on here - 1 is paying to watch a repeat of last months episode of Top Gear and the other is paying for 'archive' material. I disagree totally with paying again for something that has already been digitally broadcast that I could legally record and watch whenever I want - just give us access to this using our licence number (or drop the DRM shit and let me save a copy as I used to do on VHS).

    When it comes to 'archive' though - I accept that there will be some cost and am prepared to pay (like buying a DVD set of Old remastered Doctor Who).

    My only concern is what the BBC definition of 'archive' will actually be - if they say anything over '30 days old' is archive material then I will be very annoyed.

    An alternative would be to offer a virtual PVR service for those of us who don't own one - for this they could charge, but it would have to be something reasonable like £5 per month.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Archive - definition

      In the longer version of this on my own site, I do digress slightly into that timeshifting issue, which is somewhat related.

      Essentially, as the UK law stands at present, there is a limited exemption from copyright for the purposes of timeshifting. That does not cover the making of recordings for putting in a collection for the purposes of repeated viewing, according to the IPO website:

      So, technically, you can't record and watch whenever you want, as often as you want. Practically, of course, you can, because unless they happen to knock down your door for something else, any domestic copyright infringement is pretty much impossible to discover.

      At the moment, I would imaging that the definition of "archive" will be along the lines of "something that no longer falls within the catch-up window", as that seems to be what broadcasters in the UK tend to negotiate around at the moment, with a starting point of 7 days, and sometimes longer for things where they want to have a 'series stack' available.

      Essentially, what you're suggesting is a longer catch-up window. Easy to do for BBC productions, I imagine. Perhaps less so for some others, unless all the major UK broadcasters also decided they wanted to get indys to agree to the same terms.

  39. Christian Berger

    The question is not payment, it's DRM

    I will not pay for DRM, period. However I'll gladly pay a fair price for DRM free copies.

  40. Christian Berger

    One interresting question is...

    Shouldn't broadcast stations be encouraged to release their material under open licenses whenever possible? I mean sure, some shows contain foreign material, but is there any reason why a radio program of 2 people talking needs to be held under wraps?

    One aim of broadcasting was to make music and shows available to the population at low cost. You only need to have a receiver, and perhaps pay some minor TV tax and there you go. Why shouldn't we go beyond that, and pay TV stations to create free material which we can all share? They do need to produce the shows anyhow.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Across the pond

    Being from the U.S. and depending on the price, I'd pay for some older stuff. I already pay for U.K. releases of shows my g.f. and I enjoy, so it wouldn't be unfair, in my view, for someone like me to pay since I don't subsidize the BBC to begin with.

  42. CABVolunteer

    The author assumes too much........

    The author said: "If you really want BBC content to be available for download free, “because I’ve paid the licence fee”, then I’d argue that what you’re actually arguing is that the BBC ignore any rights other people may have in that content"

    Sorry, I don't see how that argument necessarily follows. The BBC broadcasts to licence holders for free now - is the author claiming that the BBC ignores the rights of others when it does the broadcast? I assume that when the BBC broadcasts archive material today, it has procedures in place to fulfill its legal obligations and compensate any rights holders. Why cannot those procedures be followed for making available archived material for download?

    And further the author claims: ".. and that it fund the digitisation of material and provide the download infrastructure out of the current licence fee. And that, ultimately, means that there will be less money to spend on commissioning new programmes."

    I agree, but then we're into a debate about how the BBC should spend its budget. I, for one, would be more than happy for the BBC to devote *more* of its income to making archive material available (for free) and *less* on commissioning new programmes. That's a value judgement based on my recollection of past BBC programmes and my perception of the quality of what's being commissioned today.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: The author assumes too much........

      No, what I'm saying is that just because they have the rights to broadcast, it does not necessarily follow that they have the rights to distribute on the internet, or that those rights are available without any additional costs.

      If you want them to make stuff freely available then you either restrict it to things where the rights have been acquired, or you ignore the rights, or you absorb the acquisition cost into your overheads.

      When archive material is scheduled for broadcast, they'll arrange the necessary clearances, and pay the necessary fees to use it - but that can take time. Look at how long it took, for example, to be able to get the archive of Desert Island Discs up and running.

      The effort involved in tracking everyone down and obtaining all the permissions for a huge amount of archive material is not trivial, especially when you start to get to older content. And rights are often far from straightforward - if you followed programmes like Newswipe, you'll know, for instance, that to show the 'Hollywood' sign incurs fees, or that to include footage from things like the Leveson inquiry is only allowed in certain types of programme.

      So, just because they can broadcast something does not mean that they can necessarily offer it for download. Yes, potentially, they could move to a model where every rights request includes the option of internet sale or download. But that's not where things stand now, or indeed where they were in the past.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Freetards sums it up nicely

    They have not a clue in the world.

  44. Rombizio

    TV license?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA what a weird country......

    1. Some Beggar

      Re: TV license?

      Feel absolutely free never to visit. We'll try to contain our disappointment.

      1. Rombizio

        Re: TV license?

        LOL. You feel patriotic now? Hum? Is it too hard to admit that something is fucking wrong there and needs to be fixed? I guess it must be very hard indeed....

        And don't worry. I won't put my feet on that hole, even if you guys stopping being so snob.

    2. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: TV license?

      I have surprising news for you: quite a lot of countries have TV licenses.

      In Italy, not only is the license fee higher than that of the UK, but the TV channels it pays for still carry ads. (And don't get me started on the quality of the programming. You wouldn't think it would be possible to pad out the "Deal, or No Deal" game show formula to nearly two hours, but the Italians have found a way.)

      I have a subscription to the BBC's iPlayer Global and I'm not regretting it at all. Speaking of which: iPlayer Global also appears to include shows that originally aired on C4 and ITV, including "Father Ted", "Black Books" and "Primeval". This is one advantage to having so much content produced by outside production companies. In effect, iPlayer Global is getting very close to a "UK Gold On Demand".

  45. MJI Silver badge

    BBC funding

    With the current dumbing down I am wondering if it is worth having a licence fee paid BBC.

    Everything they currently do is annoying me and they just fob us all off.

    Decent TV programmes some to an end, good ones get ignored, reality crap is most important, F1 has been sidelined.

    Getting to the stage I am watching less & less TV.

    Latest is a tough shit about their news webshite spoilering F1 results before the TV broadcast, and they had the cheek to say it had been shown on Sky

    Tossers the lot of them!

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

      Re: BBC funding

      "Everything they currently do is annoying me and they just fob us all off."

      Speak for yourself. If you want to see what "dumbed down" really looks like, I suggest you spend a few hours dribbling your brain cells out of your ear courtesy of Italy's "Mediaset" channels (which were originally owned by part-time politician, Silvio Berlusconi.) Not that the state-owned channels are noticeably better, but at least RAI does still produce the occasional drama.

      As for the BBC losing Formula 1: if you love it so much, you can bloody well pay for it.

      I consider all professional sports to be equally pointless, so this isn't just F1 I have a problem with. The less the BBC shows of the more highly-paid sports, the better. Let the commercial channels buy those. It's not the BBC's Licence Fee payer's job to subsidise the FA or Formula 1. Both are commercial entities, so they should damned well act like it.

  46. heyrick Silver badge

    We don't own the material..., we don't. But public money funds (most of) the BBC and for the ability to watch old stuff (I'd like to see The Young Ones again) they want more. You can see why some might disagree.

    Whether or not I pay depends upon: 1, the price; and 2, whether it'll be available to me in France, or still blocked on IP for some asswipe "licence" excuse (asswipe because I can quite happily buy BBC DVDs off Amazon, so the reason is what, exactly?).

  47. toadwarrior

    It shouldn't be free forever

    Use your PVR if you want it free forever. There is no additional cost to them when you do that.

    However if they want to repeatedly stream the content there are bandwidth costs, server maintenance and all that. Plus I suspect they have to pay out fees to the studios, actors or whoever for each play since it's a broadcast.

    The tv licence is relatively cheap on a per day basis. It's not really going to cover you streaming TV all day I suspect. The problem is streaming almost certainly costs more than pushing it over the airwaves. So something has to change. I don't think £1.89 is that much for the ability to keep it and especially if that means you can come back and download it again as many times as you want.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Collection of bad arguments

    Just because Thatcher sold the Trustee Savings Bank, over the heads of those who actually owned it, doesn't make it right, and doesn't make any of the analogies actually work

  49. npo4

    Although I doubt I'd use this service, I'm happy to pay the license fee for the BBC, just because of the quality of programs/ unbiased news...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You really should have used the joke alert for that post.

  50. Richard Lloyd

    License fee number = 12 free archive shows

    Here's a simple solution - your license fee number (and maybe postcode) entitles you to 12 free archive shows a year. Anything more has to be paid for via a monthly fee. Problem solved - casual viewers pay nothing extra, those after lots of old shows pay for viewing them. Or is this far too blindingly obvious?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: License fee number = 12 free archive shows

      Twelve free archive shows per year is good value to you... say the maximum of 12 hours programming? I guess the reason it's not blindingly obvious is because it's blindingly stupid.

      I've been thinking about this for a while. I'd pay a similar sub to Love Film for back catalogues of programs like Hustle and Spooks, around sixty quid a year extra for streaming. You can then add this to iPlayer, so the search returns all old programs... meaning you get the current selection, that might include Spooks, and if you pay the entire back catalogue of Spooks. This then leads on to the fairly logical 'offline mode' like Spotify. You could make a standard charge for this, or charge on a per programme or per series basis for versions to take around on mobile devices, allowing a nice option for mobile users to save the persistent hassle of conversion.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Numbers, give me numbers

    To those who constantly moan about the license fee - consider this.

    A bit of quick Googling indicates that in 2010, there were about 23 million households in the UK. And

    in the same year, advertising spend in the UK was about 16 billion.

    By my maths that is about 700 quid per household. Yes that pays for all advertising, of which commercial TV and radio is only a part. But for 150 quid you get ad-free TV, radio and online services - with all the inherent faults of an ageing, publicly-funded organisation thrown in for free.

    The license fee may be enforced but realistically, you similarly do not have an option to not contribute to adspend on a day-to-day basis. If the Reg charged for access and removed advertising, who would bother? Its ads are unobtrusive, unlike those in broadcast media. (There is always the third way of charging for access and STILL running advertising, which satellite broadcasters adopt.)

    This is, of course, separate to an argument about how much a license fee should be. And whether archive access should be funded. But rights holders are unlikely to sign those away in perpetuity.

    Did you work for free today?

    1. King Jack

      Re: Numbers, give me numbers

      If I choose not to buy Kellog's Cornflakes, they do not send people round to demand money from me on pain of a criminal record. I can choose. The BBC licence fee is extortion. If TV were invented today nobody would agree to paying one broadcaster while you watch another. The only place this model exists is in protection rackets. You pay me NOT to burn down your house or I break your legs. It's illegal. I wonder why it is?

      You are brainwashed.

  52. Ian Tresman


    Where there are no residual fees to pay performers per broadcast, programmes should be free to licence holders. The costs should be more than covered by non-license fee holders (ie, overseas viewers).

    Where there are fees to be paid, lets estimate costs could be up to £10,000 (over estimate) for broadcasting to 100,000 viewers (under-estimate), which I calculate is no more than 10p per person per broadcast. I'd be happy to pay that, rather than the estimated £1-£5.

    The cost is very important. 10p per programme is only about a £1 for an entire series, where as £2.95 per program is nearly £30 which is very unaffordable.

  53. P. Lee

    Perpetual rights and licensing are the problem, not the solution

    It appears to boil down to is that the BBC doesn't own the rights. It should not just license stuff from commercial providers. People should be paid for their work and that's it. No residuals, or at least, no residuals after X years, where X < 5, on non-commercial use. If they want to phrase it nicely, say, "We will broadcast this X times and then leave it to rot. If we charge for it (as in DVDs or non-UK broadcasts), you will get residuals."

    This might mean that the up-front cost is higher for BBC programmes, but that is ok. It is non-commercial. We want to make sure the participants get paid and the simplest and cheapest way to do that is to pay them for their time. That is how the rest of the world works. Having contracts attached to each work is a nightmare, especially as companies merge and disappear over time.

    As mentioned further elsewhere, PVRs will change everything. Technically, they already have, but they still haven't gone really mainstream yet. Broadcast is no longer a one-off event, broadcast is forever, a bit like torrents. Moreover, PVRs and servers look similar. Hotfile, torrents and PVR-recorded programmes are all just "stuff on my computer" and its quite hard for many people to feel that there is much difference, especially when things get re-broadcast and are available for free, legally and ad-free.

    All these "intellectual property" rights are not inherent. They are additional concessions we make using property as a model, extending a monopoly beyond its natural initial performance to make sure the actors get paid without a massive up-front cost. However, the corporations involved are now large enough to front that cost and I see no reason why we can't dial-back the IPR fiction to a more reasonable time-span. If we don't change the model, PVRs, torrents and the like will change it for us.

  54. JaitcH
    Thumb Up

    More like a Conundrum

    The BBC is a government agency and it could be conferred that much of it's archives are the property, indirectly, of the British tax and licence payers. Almost everything it has stashed away is history - except, of course for the last Benny Hill series they recorded that was maliciously destroyed on the orders of some management pratt.

    Whilst I have no objection to paying 'reasonable costs' of conversion, the tendency will for the BBC to see it as an answer to it's fiscal constraints.

    Perhaps the answer is a two-tier pricing scheme. A regular fee and another offered to licence holders with a 15-20$ discount.

    There is no need for them to 'gift wrap' CDs or DVDs - they can simply slap a plain white label on the product as an effort to cut costs.

    External production contracts can easily incorporate provisions for retail sale.

    Little of BBC TV fare interests me and my radio interests are presently satisfied by a remote programmable receiver I have installed at a family members house with the recordings transferred over the InterNet.

  55. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    It looks like the devils in the details.

    I'm late to this one so let me see if I've got it clear.

    No fees as the UK license fee *already* covered the costs and you have a right to it.

    So you don't mind entering your license number at log in as you check out whatever you want, citizen? Don't worry the information will not be sold to more than a couple of marketing companies. The rest of you can just hand over your credit card details now.

    If I wanted that kind of welcome I'd go through C&I at a US airport. The TSA excel at making you feel like they'd prefer you just got back on the plane and f***ed off where you came from.

    In short there are a whole series of *choices* that can make this *reasonably* acceptable or *universally* hated.

    a) Is there a free option like iPlayer. Limited life view it or loose it, no transfers but no cost. Remember the BBC *could* make *all* online content PPV. They have not done so *yet*.

    b)DRM. Option of cheaper (but tied) version versus play on anything (with the right codec, which is *another* issue).

    c) Payment method. It'd had better be simple (as there is likely to be a fair bit of impulse buying) and be able to buy a whole series as easily as a single episode.

    d)Price. The biggie. The various markets have shown there *is* a price most people will pay to hold something *permanently*.

    The rights issue is *very* important. "New Tricks" was not done by the BBC, "Men Behaving Badly" was done by a subsidiary of Thames and so on.

    I'm not sure if a flat fee or pricing by frequency (the more people download it the cheaper it gets) but at least it must cover the *infrastructure* and rights costs, which are going to be *substantial*.

    A quick check suggests the largest D2 digital tapes (3.5 Hrs) have an uncompressed capacity of 226GB. C.Hill noted the BBC has about 240 000 of them. That's about 55 *Exabytes*. The tape silo (either with them directly or transferred to some higher density media) may *still* have a place in the architecture. And I'll bet there's still a fair bit on film and analogue video. This is rather more than some 2nd had Dell sitting in some teenagers bedroom and will call for *proper* systems admin skills.

    *Properly* run this can be a way to for people to *own* things they remembered but never quite understood or introduce new generations to stuff they never knew about (Top Of The Pops as a cultural time capsule anyone?) while generating a substantial cash flow to fund upgrades and new programming.

    There is also the road less traveled.

    Turn it all over to the National Archives and let them sort it out. Hence my smile.

  56. Richard Gadsden

    British people didn't really pay for everything

    If you want to take the position that everyone British should be able to download anything that the BBC has ever broadcast in a DRM-free format for free, then that would be the end of the entire market for paying for music.

    After all, every single that has ever been in the charts was broadcast in full on Radio 1. Add Radios 2 and 3 (and, in more recent years 1Xtra and 6Music) and there is relatively little music other than album tracks that hasn't been broadcast on the BBC.

    How many films have been broadcast on the BBC at some point? Should the film-makers really lose any rights?

    Do you really think that you should be able to get the whole of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from project Barcelona instead of buying the DVDs from Fox just because the BBC had secondary repeat rights five years ago?

    In many cases the BBC will have to pay for the rights to redistribute other people's content. I think some people would like to pass a law that retroactively assigns all rights to the BBC of anything they've ever broadcast, but that's madness.

    Now, if you want to limit it to TV drama created primarily to be broadcast on the BBC (in-house or by an independent production company, but not a co-production with a US channel like, say, Rome) then yeah, they probably should look at how much it would have cost to get unrestricted non-exclusive rights back when it was broadcast. Of course, if it was made in 1970-something, then I dread to think what the rights situation is.

    Personally, I'd favour a mandatory licensing situation so actors, musicians, composers, etc get a standard rights fee if there wasn't a contract agreed at the time of production - rather than getting a situation where older TV cannot be released at all because some of the rights-holders cannot be traced, or the cost of paying the lawyers to negotiate a contract with the heirs of someone who had two lines thirty years ago is more than the total income to be gained from that episode of that TV series.

    And yes, the BBC should charge at least cost (including rights-fees in cost) for rebroadcast beyond the week or two of the normal iPlayer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: British people didn't really pay for everything

      I was going to write something long and detailed, but the short and skinny is that broadcast by the BBC and made by the BBC are not the same thing. No one was suggesting any film, or song played by the BBC should be made available for free. Learn how it works before you criticise.

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