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BBC consults on distribution policy

February 13, 2018

By Colin Mann

The BBC has launched a public consultation on its new distribution policy.

The BBC is required by its Royal Charter and Framework Agreement to develop a strategy and policy for distributing its output and services. The Agreement states that before publishing that policy the BBC must consult the public and Ofcom. The consultation period runs until Monday 9th April 2018.

The BBC notes that in recent years, the speed at which the UK media sector is changing has increased. Traditional players, including the BBC, are now a smaller part of the overall market, as global Internet companies in particular grow their content businesses and increase their influence.

However, in this rapidly-changing market place with so much on offer to consumers, the role of the BBC has never been so important, it suggests. The BBC was founded on a simple, democratic idea: that everybody should have access to the best programmes and services.

As the BBC approaches its centenary, its universal public service mission remains unique: to offer high-quality distinctive services that inform, educate and entertain. The BBC serves all audiences independent of any corporate or commercial interest.

According to the Corporation, effective distribution is vitally important for the BBC and its ongoing ability to inform, educate and entertain audiences. The more effectively and efficiently the BBC distributes its services, the more valuable they are to people. The lower the cost of the distribution the more the BBC can spend on British content for audiences to enjoy.

The Charter and Agreement notes that the BBC must do all that is reasonably practical to ensure audiences are able to access UK public services intended for them in a range of convenient and cost-effective ways. In doing this the BBC may impose reasonable conditions under which its output and services are made available to third parties – and this must not adversely impact fair and effective competition and must be fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.

In order to achieve these aims the draft policy published sets out seven conditions that form the basis under which the BBC will distribute its UK public services:

(a) Prominence – the placement of BBC content and services relative to those of other providers should be in line with audience needs and expectations

(b) Editorial Control – the BBC retains editorial control of its content and its placement

(c) Branding and Attribution – users should be able to easily identify which content on a platform is provided by the BBC

(d) Quality – users should be able to enjoy a high-quality experience of BBC content and services

(e) Data – the BBC should have access to data about the usage of its services

(f) Free Access – users should incur no incremental cost to access BBC content and services

(g) Value for Money – arrangements should maximise cost-effectiveness of distribution to the licence fee payer

The BBC will require each of these seven conditions to be met, but will consider each case on its individual merits and compliance may be a matter of degree.

The public, stakeholders and Ofcom are invited to comment on the policy and the BBC will consider their feedback before publishing its final policy.

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