Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sticking it to the licence-fee payers

It would be lovely to blame the Chancellor for the BBC letting its much-loved archive of recipes wither on the vine. But the BBC attitude to stuff already paid for in full by the licence fee has been ambivalent for years.

Previous management decided that more money could be squeezed out of programmes already paid for by the licence fee back in 1992. That was when cable and satellite operator UKTV was set up, originally with Thames TV. Ever since then, you have to suffer ads to see BBC back catalogue; and the archive channel BBC4 gets restricted access to the BBC's own programmes as a result.

Part of the new deal with Whittingdale is to set up "Britflix", a re-born Project Kangaroo, where bundles of back catalogue from the BBC and other British broadcasters will be available online, on-demand, for a monthly subscription. BBC Store also makes things you've paid for available to you again, at a fee.

Before the arrival of the information highway, the way to get recipes from BBC tv shows was to buy the book of the series, usually helpfully advertised at the end of each programme. Back in 2006, BBC Books was another asset cashed in by a cash-strapped BBC Worldwide. It's now owned by Penguin Random House, and operated through Ebury Press, with BBC Worldwide a minority shareholder.

Now, we are told, recipes from BBC programmes made entirely with funding from you, the licence-fee payer, will only be available online for 30 days. If you don't dump them onto a memory stick before then, you'll have to buy them back again.  Does George Osborne have shares in PCWorld or Maplins ?

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