BBC ‘strong-arms indies’ over iPlayer extensions

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The BBC has vexed a number of television production companies after attempting to extend iPlayer shows from one month to one year – without raising the licensing fees they pay for the content.

Earlier this month, Ofcom ruled that the iPlayer service could extend the amount of time box sets could be viewed from 30 days to 12 months. The BBC had previously warned it would become “irrelevant” unless it is allowed to offer box sets and keep shows on iPlayer for at least a year to compete with major streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Independent TV producers say that keeping their shows on iPlayer longer means that they are less valuable when they are later allowed to be sold on to other distributors, which they are currently allowed to do 18 months after they have aired on the BBC. Ofcom had ruled that the BBC needs to “adequately compensate” producers and that it may have to look to pay a higher price for programming.

However, Pact, the body which represents the UK independent TV production industry, says it has been contacted by a number of members reporting that the BBC is attempting to obtain permission to host their shows for longer on the online platform without paying more.

Pact said that its concern around the BBC’s behaviour has prompted it to warn its entire member base about the issue.

“The BBC has consistently sought to strong-arm suppliers into giving the BBC these rights for no compensation and without a proper agreement,” John McVay, Pact’s chief executive, told The Guardian.  “Pact has warned its members three times since April that the BBC has not yet reached an agreement with Pact for its ambitious plans.”

A BBC spokesman retorted: “Both viewers and production companies win by making programmes available for longer on BBC iPlayer. This is about keeping up with viewer expectations and is long overdue. Audiences are choosing to consume content on demand and the value they receive from their licence fee should reflect that shift. We continue to have conversations with Pact and production companies to make this happen. Longer BBC iPlayer availability does not reduce the opportunities for them commercially, rather, success on the BBC leads to commercial success for independently produced programmes.”


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