BBC Trust Nixes PSB ‘Online Federation’ Proposal

LONDON: The BBC’s proposal for an "online federation" of British public-service broadcasters providing on-demand content via the iPlayer through a mix of commercial and public-service components has been rejected by its governing body.

The BBC Trust said it supported the principle of sharing the BBC’s popular iPlayer online service, but noted that the pubcaster "would need to find simpler ways of achieving this." The open iPlayer plan called for an online federation consisting of the BBC and other public-service broadcasters. Links would be implemented between the iPlayer and other PSB sites, and a new VOD listings site would be created to which all PSBs would link. In addition, a new commercial service at the BBC would license the iPlayer technology to third parties. 

The Trust, in rejecting the proposal, said that the "combination of commercial and public service activities was too complex, and the inter-weaving of public service elements prevented consideration of the commercial suggestions as a standalone plan." Plus, the Trust noted, "The degree of co-operation envisaged between major U.K. content producers would need to be looked at in terms of its possible effects on competition. The Trust says it is open to alternative proposals for sharing iPlayer technology on a "simpler basis" to others beyond the BBC.

"The iPlayer is a success, and we believe that access to its technology could be useful to other broadcasters," said Diane Coyle, BBC Trustee and Chair of the Trust’s Strategic Approvals Committee. "The Trust supports the BBC’s aim of sharing the benefits of the iPlayer. When assessing the proposals submitted by the BBC Executive, the Trust weighed up a number of factors. These included their strategic significance, their impact on other BBC activities, the potential competitive impact, and their overall value to licence fee payers. We concluded that the open iPlayer plans in their proposed form, combining both commercial and public service elements, were too complicated. We were not convinced that there was enough potential value to licence-fee payers in the public service part of the proposal, and we have therefore rejected the BBC Executive’s proposals for an open iPlayer federation."