BBC boss Mark Thomson confirms TV download pay service
I’m going to try this evening to offer a view of the future of the BBC – and of the whole of broadcasting – through the prism of a single year… This year, 2012. Because this is the year when so many of our ambitions, so many of the issues we’ve wrestled with, finally come together.
We want to change that and have started to talk to our partners, including the independent sector and PACT, about a proposal which we will formally submit to the BBC Trust later this year which – for reasons which escape me – we call Project Barcelona.
BBC director general Mark Thompson has confirmed plans for an iTunes/Amazon style download service that will allow its viewers to buy programmes mere minutes after they have finished on TV.
Mr. Thompson said the proposal, called Project Barcelona, would allow viewers to "purchase a digital copy of a programme to own and keep for a relatively modest charge".
Mr. Thompson was not specific about the timescale or pricing, but sources said it was hoped that programmes would be available to buy at the same time as they go on the iPlayer. Early speculation put the price at £1.89 a show.
Anticipating criticism that viewers were being made to pay twice for the same content, Thompson said: "This is not a second licence-fee by stealth or any reduction in the current public service offering from the BBC – it's the exact analogy of going into a high-street shop to buy a DVD or, before that, a VHS cassette.
"For decades the British public has understood the distinction between watching Dad's Army on BBC1 and then going out to buy a permanent copy of it. Barcelona is the digital equivalent of doing the second."
Thompson outlined the plans in a speech to the Royal Television Society today, where he said he had already started to talk to independent producers and producers' trade association, Pact.
Thompson said the window would be "non-exclusive" and "open-ended – in other words, the programmes would be available permanently".
He added: "Our ambition would ultimately be to let everyone who pays the licence fee access all of our programmes on this basis and, over time, to load more and more of our archive into the window.
"It could also mark an important step in broadcast's journey from being a transitory medium into a growing body of outstanding and valuable content which is always available to enjoy and which persists forever."
Thompson, who is expected to step down as director general later this year or early in 2013, said he did "not propose to lay out an exact timetable this evening" about his departure.
"I'll share that with the BBC Trust and all of my colleagues at the BBC when the time is right."
But he did use the occasion to reflect on his eight years in charge of the corporation and to take aim at his critics in parliament and the press.
On his decision to shut 6 Music, which was reversed following an outcry from listeners, Thompson criticised MPs who had "been most vocal about the need to cut BBC services who promptly turned on a sixpence" when the public came out in support of the station.
He did not name names but broadcasting minister Ed Vaizey, then in opposition, springs to mind.
"It's been much the same with the Asian Network and with the more recent debate about sharing some programmes on local radio," added Thompson.
What the BBC stands for and what its priorities should be. How the new connected digital technologies are transforming the way we serve our audiences and redefining what we mean by the term ‘broadcasting’. How partnership and public space, which represent a different kind of connectedness, offer new ways for the BBC to help other broadcasters and cultural institutions achieve their goals. In 2012 we will see breakthroughs in all these areas.
As with the Coronation, that moment which truly launched television in the UK, this year the Diamond Jubilee, the Torch Relay, the Cultural Olympiad – which will have a massive presence on the BBC – and the Olympic Games themselves will not just win the rapt attention of pretty much every household in the land, but will show us the future of broadcasting today.
Speech given by BBC Director-General Mark Thompson at the Royal Television Society on Wednesday 14 March, 2012.