Independent among four nationals to sign first ever video deal with BBC

BBC opens up access to UK news content as part of drive to Digital Britain
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The Independent Online

The Independent and three other national newspapers have signed a milestone deal with the BBC, which will provide online news videos to commercial rivals for the first time, as it moves to head off potential cuts to the licence fee.

The BBC's videos went live on The Independent's website yesterday as well as on The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and the Daily Mail.

The move, which initially targeted newspapers with the largest online audiences, is part of the corporation's response to the Government's wide-ranging blueprint to bring the country into the digital age.

The BBC's deputy director general and head of journalism, Mark Byford, said the corporation had "set out its intention to open up access to BBC news content as part of the Digital Britain process. We regard this initiative as a core part of the BBC working more effectively as a public service partner, with other media organisations utilising BBC news content."

Jimmy Leach, the editorial director of The Independent's digital operation, said: "We welcome this deal as part of our continued development in a multiplatform world." The Independent also shows video from PA and France24, and is the only European website to display Al Jazeera content.

Mr Leach added it was a strategic step by the BBC. The corporation announced plans to generate £120m in revenues by 2014 to support public service broadcasting for third parties from partnerships in December.

Mr Byford added: "The way the public is consuming audio and video online is changing. Audiences are increasingly expecting news content to be available wherever they are, rather than always having to navigate to destination sites. We hope this wider distribution will extend audience reach to BBC content."

The wider proposals, which cover production, distribution and exploitation of content, included sharing the iPlayer with rivals and bringing online shows to televisions through Project Canvas, which is still in development.

The plans also potentially offer regional content and broadcasting facilities to rivals for news footage, as well as sharing digital production technology.

The commercial arm of the BBC, Worldwide, is in talks with Channel 4 over a joint venture. The two sides had hoped to seal a deal by last month, but talks are ongoing.

The BBC said last year it wanted to "explore whether it can do more to support the newspaper industry". Following yesterday's deal, the newspapers can display BBC-generated content related to UK politics, business, health and science and technology. None of the sites will have access to the entertainment or sports content.

The BBC said: "These genres have been chosen on the basis that they represent a good cross-section of the BBC's public service news output on BBC Online." The group added that it would make the content more widely available to other UK news websites, although the BBC said it would be up to them if they wanted to take it or not.

Some experts were surprised by The Guardian and The Telegraph's decision to show the BBC's content, as they both have in-house productions. The Times did not sign up.

The BBC has fixed several provisos on to the agreement, saying that its content cannot be directly connected to any advertising on the third-party websites, and it will be the same as that on the BBC website. The content is only available in the UK, and will be blocked from those trying to access it abroad.

The move prompted an angry response from ITN, the independent broadcaster. The group's chief executive, John Hardie, is expected to take the matter up with the BBC Trust in the next few days. He said the move "risks undermining the demand for content from independent news providers, potentially undercutting a very important revenue stream".

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