WTF... should I pay to download BBC shows?
Project Barcelona peeves the freetards
Feature 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 little longer. But after that initial catch-up window, it disappears. If you want a copy after that, you’ll have to wait until the DVD comes out, or buy a download from a store like Apple’s iTunes store.
There are a few other stores that have BBC content, but between them what’s on offer still adds up to a tiny fraction of all the material that the BBC has in its archives. There’s a wealth of material that people remember fondly which has never found its way to VHS or DVD, let alone download stores.
Project Barcelona will, hopefully, make much more of this available. And with its knowledge of the programmes, the BBC can provide much more interesting ways to navigate the content than you find on, say, iTunes.
But why bother?
Over on the Which Conversation blog, they’ve asked the question “would you pay to download BBC programmes?” and a surprising number of people have selected “No” as their answer.
We’ve all - or most of us, at any rate - paid for the BBC, right? So why the heck should we pay to download programmes. They’re ours, aren’t they? We own the BBC, we pay for it, so we own the things it makes. If you have a TV licence, then you should get a code that validates you to play any content you like, whenever you like.
That’s an appealing argument. It appears clear and simple to understand. Thanks to some of the bizarre actions of BBC management over the years, it’s no surprise that there are people who are so thoroughly exasperated with the Corporation they’d love to get back some of the money they’ve put in.
The fact is, though you may pay your licence fee, and that does indeed fund the BBC, you don’t own the material. We may, in theory, own the BBC collectively, just as we could be said to have once owned British Telecom collectively. But that didn’t stop the government selling it to some of us all over again. Nor does owning shares in BT mean you can just borrow one of its vans when you fancy.
The ownership of creative work is very seldom absolute – there are lots of people involved, including writers, directors, actors and more. All of them will have contracts, and in many cases, those contracts will long predate internet downloads. In some, they’ll even predate the idea of home video sales.
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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) .
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.
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.)
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.
How about a mixed model...
We charge foreigners and use the money to fund it being free for us.