Charging for BBC iPlayer downloads

This is a longer version of the comment I left at the BBC website. Unfortunately, they only allow 350 characters, which is almost two whole tweets! That is not enough to leave a proper comment on this subject.

OK, I’ve said that the Beeb should begin charging for BBC iPlayer, not totally in jest. The major problem is that people are already paying for this service by their Television Licence fees–in theory. Perhaps, the BBC should require that one’s iPlayer profile also include the TV licence information.

Although, I have also pointed out that a loophole exists if one time shifts BBC programming via iPlayer downloads, as the licence fee only covers live broadcast reception. We come into curious other policy problems with this. The major one is that the BBC tries to have as large an audience for its programmes as it can. That said, charging for this material begins to run against this policy. Additionally, this is a regressive charge which will hit the poor. The BBC could charge a lower fee for an “iPlayer” specific licence.

Also, if the BBC is going to start charging for this material, then they need to make more of it accessible. The big case in point to me is News (e.e., News at Six and News at Ten). I would be willing to pay for access to news programmes if they are downloadable via iPlayer.

Another problem, many of the iPlayer downloaders can access this material from outside the UK. I’m not going to get into this, but this also has some ramifications for the debate. If the BBC is going to start charging for this material, are they going to turn a blind eye to where the view is accessing the material? One can buy the DVDs and watch them in another region using a region free DVD player. I know that the BBC’s response is that there are other digital rights holders, but if someone is waving money at them.

Of course, I have this vision of people applying for TV licences from Effing Sodbury and Chipping Wedgewood if the only criteria is a TV licence!  How many people would get TV licences with the address  10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA?  Some addresses could have more TV licences leading one to conclude that more people lived there than a Calcutta tenement!

Then, this gets to another issue I have with the BBC. They have a revenue stream which they do not exploit, which is some of their unissued material. The big case in point would be issuing DVDs of the Goodies TV show. That is a tremendously popular series, yet the BBC has not issued any of the shows in a serious manner. I think we can blame a couple of things here, which is the old archival policy which has trashed as significant amount of British Television history (e.g., Take Three Girls, The Borderers, etcetera).

The final problem is that popular British TV programmes end up in the download community, which I doubt will be something that will stop if the BBC begins to charge for iPlayer material. In fact, I think that would become more of a problem for the BBC if iPlayer material is subject to a fee. So, unless the BBC is going to begin to put more of its material out on DVD, I don’t think they will come up with a fool proof way of making money from the iPlayer downloads.

As I said, I think the best way would be to introduce a reduced iPlayer fee and not loot at where the person is accessing the material from which would allow for better access to the BBC material. But, I don’t think the BBC chiefs are going jump at this. That means they are left with people using iPlayer on the honour system.

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