BBC Trust Consultation: On-demand Syndication

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The BBC Trust wants your help:

For a number of years, BBC TV channels (BBC1 for example) have been available on a range of platforms such as Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin, allowing viewers to choose how they access BBC programmes. Increasingly, as technology advances, people expect to be able to watch BBC programmes on demand as well.

The BBC’s iPlayer has become the main way that audiences choose to watch BBC programmes on demand. You can watch the iPlayer on various platforms, such as on your computer (via bbc.co.uk/iplayer), on your TV (via digital services and through games consoles), and on your mobile. Making BBC content available to third parties for distribution on such platforms is known as syndication. Other BBC content has been made available in a different way, for example the BBC has allowed newspaper websites to embed its News stories on their pages.

As with any policy, it is necessary to ensure it remains up to date and relevant to the current environment. When the BBC Trust set the current Syndication Policy, and approved the Executive Guidelines, it included a requirement to review them. As part of this planned review, we have asked the Executive to put forward proposals on what changes to the BBC’s on-demand syndication approach they think are required. These proposals were submitted to the Trust in April 2010.

As part of our review the Trust wants to hear your views on these proposals. In this consultation we are seeking views on the key principles, and in particular the basis on which the BBC should make its on demand content available to third parties to use on their platforms or devices. Where relevant, we would welcome your comments on how BBC syndication has or could impact your business and/or the markets you operate in.

The consultation documentation can be downloaded here [.pdf], and you can either reply as an organisation or an individual. In the latter case, you can use a handy online survey.

The basic problem is that the BBC is still looking at things from a command-and-control viewpoint, asking for comments on how it should micro-manage everything in terms of which platforms should be supported, and how the content should be used.

As I wrote in my submission using the online survey, it would be far better if the BBC simply released the iPlayer code as open source, and allowed companies and people to support the platforms they are interested in. This would save money and enable a far greater range of devices to be supported. I also recommended allowing the atomisation of content, rather than forcing people to watch pre-defined channels – in other words, in the way we consume content online.

Of course, there's not the slightest chance that the BBC will do either, but we have to try....

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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