The BBC Trust has issued its final approval of the BBC Executive's proposals for new on-demand services, with some modifications. The on-demand proposals are the first to go through a Public Value Test.
The Trust's provisional conclusions were subject to an open consultation. A remarkable 10,500 individuals and organisations responded. In the light of those responses, and after careful consideration of all relevant issues, the Trust has amended two of the conditions of its provisional approval.
Diane Coyle, BBC Trustee and Chair of the Trust’s PVT Steering Group, said:
"Thanks to the thorough assessment through the Public Value Test, and with the modifications which resulted from the test and the consultation, the Trust is satisfied that the BBC's new on-demand services will create significant public value with limited market impact. We have therefore given our final approval for the services to be launched."
Most responses to the consultation came from individuals, the majority of whom supported the proposals and believed that, as licence fee payers, they should have maximum access to BBC content. A significant number of responses were received from industry and commercial stakeholders, some of whom reiterated their concerns about the potential for adverse market impact.
Diane Coyle said:
"The over-riding responsibility of the Trust is to act in the public interest. This means that, when considering the potential market impact of new service applications from the BBC, we must focus primarily on the effect on consumers who enjoy the choice offered by content and services beyond those provided by the BBC.
"In our provisional conclusions we proposed a number of modifications to BBC management's plans and sought feedback from the public and the media industry. Having considered the responses carefully, we've made two changes to our provisional conclusions."
The two changes are:
- Series stacking: The condition attached to this feature has changed. The Trust has taken account of responses from the industry and the BBC Executive, both of whom questioned the Trust's proposal for an editorial definition to minimise market impact, with some commercial companies proposing the facility be removed. But the Trust has also taken note of the public's overwhelming support for this feature. The Trust has decided that the facility for series stacking will remain, but the Trust has applied a 15 per cent annual quota for series stacking with revised editorial guidance to the BBC Executive on the type of series which can be included.
- Platform neutrality for DRM downloads over the internet: The condition attached to meeting this objective has changed. The Trust has noted the strong public demand for platform neutrality and is concerned to ensure that the BBC meets this demand as soon as possible. The Trust acknowledges the BBC's commitment to platform neutrality and has taken account of the Executive's response that a two year deadline is unworkable because success is dependent on third parties outside of the BBC's control. However, in the interest of those members of the public who will be disadvantaged until this matter is resolved, the Trust will audit the BBC's progress against this objective every six months and publish its findings.
The decision document sets out in full how the Trust has considered the issues raised by respondents to the consultation and the reasons for its decisions. These include:
Seven-day catch-up television over the internet:
- Use of digital rights management (DRM)
- Platform neutrality
- Series stacking
- Storage window
- Non-DRM downloads (book readings and classical music)
- Protection of children
- Access for third-party content to the BBCiPlayer
- The BBC's on-demand services as modified and finally approved by the Trust are:
Seven-day catch-up television over cable:
- The storage window for TV catch-up over the internet will be set at 30 days from the day of download.
- Series stacking is permissible for a total of 30 days, seven days after the last episode of the series. Stacking will be limited to an annual quota of 15 per cent of all content offered on-demand. As guidance to the BBC Executive, series most appropriate for stacking are those with a distinct run, with a beginning and end, and a narrative arc or those with exceptionally high impact. This condition will be reviewed by the Trust after 12 months.
- The service will be provided on a platform neutral basis within a reasonable timeframe of launch. The Trust will audit progress every six months.
Simulcast television over the internet (live streaming of television networks):
Non-digital rights management (non-DRM) audio downloads over the internet (podcasting)
- Series stacking as for the internet.
- Book readings will be excluded entirely from the non-DRM audio download service element.
- Classical music will also be excluded, except where it is used in contexts such as incidental music to programmes or as signature tunes.
- Existing services on bbc.co.uk to "listen again" to BBC Radio programmes are not affected by the Trust's decisions about downloading services.