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BBC Trust permanently allows longer clips on Specialist Classical Chart Podcast

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Ian McDonald Ian McDonald | 15:06 UK time, Thursday, 4 August 2011

Joseph Calleja singing opera.

Joseph Calleja is the top of this week's Specialist Classical Music Chart podcast, where he can now sing at length. Picture from Andrew Marr show.

If you have missed out on Mitch Benn's ballads in the Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy podcast, or listened to the Radio One Chart podcast and heard only snippets of songs, you will know that BBC podcasts can only include short clips of commercial music.

The limit is usually thirty seconds for popular music and sixty seconds for classical. Because you can keep the MP3 of the podcast, the music rights are more restricted than in broadcasting or on Radioplayer.

Even where the BBC has arranged the music rights, the service licences granted by the BBC Trust also limits music in podcasts:

[BBC Online] may also offer broadcast radio content for download for an unlimited period of time after broadcast, although this must not include unabridged readings of published works nor full track commercial music nor classical music (even if recorded by the BBC)

The BBC Trust has now made a permanent exception to that, after a six-month trial and a consultation, for the Specialist Classical Music Chart podcast. The Trust will now allow this podcast to include excerpts up to nine minutes long. This ruling changes two service licences - for Radio 3 and BBC Online.

Andrew Caspari, BBC Head of Speech Radio & Classical Music, blogged that the Specialist Classical Music Chart podcast was back for good. He said it was good for both the British audience and the British music industry:

In fact nearly 25% of those who listened to the podcast said they were inspired to listen to more live radio, whilst 70% said they were listening to the same amount (eDigital Research for the BBC). 80% of listeners said the podcast had introduced them to music they had not heard before. Good news for the music industry came with the finding that 25% of listeners to the chart podcast had purchased classical music as a result. The BPI's classical committee is pleased with the outcome, saying the podcast supports the work to "...obtain a wider audience for the specialist classical chart and for serious classical music in general". So, all in all the trial was a success.

Changing the Service Licences under which BBC channels operate would usually trigger a formal assessment called a "Public Value Test". 

But for several reasons, the Trust concluded that the introduction of this podcast does not represent a significant change and should get an immediate green light. These reasons included the expected limited or positive impact on other listening including record buying, the potential to help Radio 3 reach young people, and the backing of the music industry:

OFCOM did not raise any concerns given the limited scope of the proposal, noting support from industry stakeholders and little crossover in audience terms with commercial alternatives.

You can read more and comment at Andrew Caspari's blog post. Or you can download the podcast, sit back, and enjoy the best new classical recordings.

Ian McDonald is the Content Producer, BBC Internet Blog

Post updated Aug 5 with more information about the changes to the service licences.

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