BBC plans to sell content at 'digital shop'

Mark Thompson Mark Thompson will submit proposal to Trust

The BBC is looking to open a 'digital shop' where people can buy permanent copies of its programmes.

In a speech to the Royal Television Society on Wednesday night, Mark Thompson revealed that the corporation was already in talks with the independent sector and PACT about the proposal, which is called Project Barcelona.

As well as catching up with content on the iPlayer for seven days after broadcast, licence fee payers would also be able to purchase programmes via a 'download-to-own' window for a 'relatively modest charge'.

Start Quote

This is not a second licence-fee by stealth or any reduction in the current public service offering from the BBC”

End Quote Mark Thompson

The programmes would remain available to buy permanently, with more of the archive added over time, explained the director general.

'This is not a second licence-fee by stealth or any reduction in the current public service offering from the BBC,' he insisted.

'It's the exact analogy of going into a high street shop to buy a DVD or, before that, a VHS cassette.'

Source of income

Thompson said Project Barcelona would give a new lease of life to the 90% of BBC commissions and broadcasts that become unavailable when the iPlayer window expires and would also generate income.

'If Barcelona gains the support of the UK's producers and, of course, the approval of the BBC Trust, it potentially adds an important new source of revenue for producers and rights holders - and represents a potential new way of supporting UK production,' he added.

Thompson said the content would not be exclusive to Barcelona - other providers would be able to sell it - and 'producers could exploit this download-to-own window in any way they wanted'.

A formal proposal will be submitted to the BBC Trust later this year.

No departure date

In a speech which also saw Thompson revisit some of the highs and lows of his time at the top of the BBC, he refused to put a date on his departure.

'For years, many of my colleagues and most media observers have assumed… that 2012 was such a natural watershed in the life of the BBC that it would also be the year I'd choose to end my tour of duty as director general of the BBC,' he conceded.

'Well make of that what you will - I'm not proposing to lay out an exact timetable this evening.'

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