THE BBC IS GEARING UP to launch an Itunes style service that will allow punters to download classic shows and keep them permanently for a "relatively modest charge".
Dubbed Project Barcelona, the offering was announced by the broadcaster's director general Mark Thompson in a speech at the Royal Television Show in London last night. He explained that the download forever idea has been proposed because the overwhelming majority of what the BBC commissions and broadcasts becomes unavailable to view on the corporation's Iplayer media streaming service after seven days.
He explained that to change that this the BBC has been talking to partners including the independent sector about the proposal, which will be submitted to the BBC Trust later this year.
"The idea behind Barcelona is simple. It is that, for as much of our content as possible, in addition to the existing iPlayer window, another download-to-own window would open soon after transmission - so that if you wanted to purchase a digital copy of a programme to own and keep, you could pay what would generally be a relatively modest charge for doing so," Thompson explained.
He went on insist that the move will not be a "second licence-fee by stealth" or any reduction in the current public service offering from the BBC. Rather he argued that the service will be a digital version of going to a shop to buy a DVD of a favourite show that you particularly want to keep and watch again.
According to Thompson the offering will be non-exclusive. "The BBC would open up one digital shop, but the expectation would be that all this content would also be made available for other existing providers to sell if they wish and that producers could exploit this download-to-own window in any way they wanted. But the important point is that the window would be open-ended - in other words, the programmes would be available permanently," he said.
The BBC chief added that ultimately he wants to let audiences have access to all of the corporation's programmes on this basis and, over time, to load more and more of its archive into the service. µ