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Ofcom reaches for pause on Beeb downloads

Plans threaten commercial rivals

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The BBC's plans to allow punters to download its TV and radio programmes have been heavily criticised by communications watchdog Ofcom which reckons they could damage commercial rivals.

Ofcom fears the availability of classical music available for free download from the BBC will damage commercial providers of such music. It says classical music should either be removed from the service or access to it very restricted.

This analysis comes from Ofcom's first Market Impact Assessment looking at BBC proposals for future services. While the regulator says BBC involvement will increase interest in other services it fears, "there is evidence that certain aspects of the proposals may have a negative effect on investment in similar commercial services which would not be in the long-term public interest."

Other worries raised by the civil servants are that "series stacking" - storing and watching entire series - will also discourage investment in rival services and hit rentals and sales of DVDs.

The statement says: "The ability to store programmes for up to 13 weeks could have negative effects on competition and therefore investment in consumer choice. Ofcom believes this storage window should be reduced or removed."

The regulator has given the whole report to the BBC Trust - which oversees the broadcaster - for its consideration.

For its part the BBC says it has received the document and that it provides part, but only part, of whether the proposals are likely to pass the "Public Value Test" on which it will decide whether or not downloads get the go-ahead.

Other broadcasters like Channel 4 and Sky already offer such services and video content is also available from a variety of independent websites like Sling and Joost.

The Ofcom release is available here, and you can find a Pdf of the whole report there too. BBC Trust response is here.

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