BBC trust rejects iPlayer sharing plan

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A proposal to allow a federation of broadcasters such as Channel 4 and ITV to share the BBC's iPlayer was rejected by the BBC Trust today.

The plans had been put forward by the BBC Executive to allow a partnership with public service broadcasters and develop a more comprehensive video-on-demand service.

But the Trust rejected the proposal, saying the mix of commercial and public service components was too complicated.

However the Trust did not close the door on a deal and said it would be willing to looking at further ideas to make iPlayer technology open to others if they were "simpler". It said it would consider "an alternative proposal for the licensing of the iPlayer technology to third parties if that can be done on a simple, fair and commercial basis".

The BBC Executive formulated a plan - known as the 'open iPlayer' proposals - to make the technology commercially available to other broadcasters. They also involved creating an online "federation" between the BBC and the other public service broadcasters - including C4, ITV and Five - and establishing links with other on-demand sites.

But the BBC Trust was concerned that although the ideas put forward had "considerable strategic significance", they did not give enough "value" to licence payers. And the combination of commercial and public service parts prevented the Trust from looking at the "commercial suggestions as a standalone plan".

Diane Coyle, BBC Trustee and chairwoman of the Trust's strategic approvals committee, said: "The iPlayer is a success, and we believe that access to its technology could be useful to other broadcasters. The Trust supports the BBC's aim of sharing the benefits of the iPlayer.

"When assessing the proposals submitted by the BBC Executive, the Trust weighed up a number of factors. These included their strategic significance, their impact on other BBC activities, the potential competitive impact, and their overall value to licence fee payers.

"We concluded that the open iPlayer plans in their proposed form, combining both commercial and public service elements, were too complicated. We were not convinced that there was enough potential value to licence fee payers in the public service part of the proposal, and we have therefore rejected the BBC Executive's proposals for an open iPlayer federation.

"We will look again at future public service models for the online delivery of programming as part of the strategic review now in progress. In the meantime, the Trust is open to considering an alternative proposal for the licensing of the iPlayer technology to third parties if that can be done on a simple, fair and commercial basis."

A BBC spokeswoman said today: "We note that the BBC Trust have chosen not to approve the federation element of the 'open iPlayer' proposals, though we're encouraged that they can see the potential in other aspects of the proposition.

"Working with the Trust, we hope to develop an alternative proposition that can deliver value to our partners and the public alike."

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