Sunday 25 August 2019

BBC iPlayer changes get provisional approval

The broadcaster wants programmes to be available on the service for at least 12 months after they are first shown.

Changes to the BBC’s iPlayer have been given provisional approval by Ofcom (Philip Toscano/PA)
Changes to the BBC’s iPlayer have been given provisional approval by Ofcom (Philip Toscano/PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

BBC plans to make shows available on iPlayer for longer have been given provisional approval by regulator Ofcom.

The broadcaster wants its programmes to stay on the now 30-day catch-up service for at least 12 months after they are first shown.

Ofcom has launched a consultation and a final decision will be made by August.

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(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“With the UK broadcasting sector evolving, and audiences’ expectations changing, the BBC needs to keep pace,” the watchdog said, following a competition assessment.

“We have provisionally found that the proposed changes to BBC iPlayer would pose challenges for other public service broadcasters’ video-on-demand services.

“But, in our view, the changes could also deliver significant public value over time.

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BBC director of content Charlotte Moore said ‘audience expectations have changed dramatically’ and they want more from its iPlayer (Charlotte Steeples/BBC/PA)

“They could increase choice and availability of public-service broadcast content, and help ensure the BBC remains relevant in the face of changing viewing habits.

“So we have provisionally concluded that the public value justifies the impact on fair and effective competition, and the BBC can proceed with its plans.

“This is subject to certain proposed conditions and guidance to ensure the BBC delivers future public value, and to mitigate against risks to fair and effective competition.”

It comes as the BBC announced that, from June 2020, the free TV licence for over-75s will only be available to households where someone receives Pension Credit.

Ofcom is now “inviting views from interested or affected parties on our provisional conclusions by July 10”, and said it expects to publish its final decision by August.

The BBC welcomed Ofcom’s provisional green light, saying the current 30-day window is no longer suitable amid competition from global streaming services.

A spokeswoman for the broadcaster said: “It’s great news for audiences if they are able to watch programmes on BBC iPlayer for a year, along with full boxsets of selected returning titles and programmes from the BBC archive. It will give viewers more value for their licence fee and mean we can better keep up with their growing expectations.

“Restricting the BBC to having programmes on iPlayer for 30 days no longer makes sense in a world where global streaming services can offer unlimited boxsets for as long as they want.

“We hope Ofcom can now confirm its decision swiftly so we can start giving licence fee payers the BBC iPlayer they want and deserve.”

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “Having scrutinised the BBC’s plans for iPlayer and listened to industry feedback, as required under the Charter, we’ve provisionally concluded that the BBC can go ahead.

“We believe the changes will provide value to BBC viewers that would justify the effect on competition. But we’re proposing certain measures to safeguard fair competition and ensure the BBC delivers full public value.”

PA Media

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