Written evidence submitted by BBC News
The Press Association has copied a letter to
the BBC which was sent to you on 6th January 2010 regarding access
to footage from the broadcast pool and the BBC's online video
sharing initiative. I thought it would be helpful if I outlined
the BBC's position in relation to both these issues.
UK BROADCAST POOL
The UK broadcast pool consists of the BBC, ITN
and Sky. It is an informal working arrangement whereby the television
broadcasters combine their resources to cover events (sometimes
very expensive and international) in a cost effective way. Each
broadcaster either contributes equipment or funds, or takes a
turn at covering an event for other members of the pool. The number
of cameras allowed at events is at the discretion of the event
The pool has worked well in a mono-media age,
but with convergence other news organisations increasingly want
access to video as part of their offering. The Press Association
has in the past expressed a desire to be included as part of the
broadcast pool in order to acquire video footage.
The view of the broadcasters is that for this
to happen, PA should contribute infrastructure and broadcast quality
pictures on a similar basis to the other members of the pool.
Currently, the PA is primarily geared for digital media and has
neither the technology nor the trained staff to operate on a similar
basis as the others. For instance, they do not have the capability
to provide a live signal from a satellite truck or similar.
The PA formally complained to the BBC and other
members of the broadcast pool in July 2009. Since that time we
have been attempting to deal with this issue in a fair and reasonable
manner which takes into account the BBC's obligation to deliver
value for money to the licence fee payer, and the fact that Sky
and ITN are commercial organisations.
It has been agreed that in situations where
it is not possible for additional cameras to be at events, PAalong
with any other news organisationshould be allowed access
to pool material for 24 hour usage. The BBC would levy a charge
per pool operation with the norm being around £500 but dependent
on the individual circumstances and costs involved.
Most of the examples that PA cite in their letter
of where they have been denied access to pool footage appear to
predate July 2009. Since then the BBC has considered this matter
to be resolved and in recent months PA have asked for access to
material, which they have been offered in exchange for an appropriate
Regarding the Chilcott Inquiry, this is not
a standard UK broadcast pool operation as it involves the Cabinet
Office picking up part of the costs and laying down some requirements
on the use of the material. The Cabinet Office also determined
the number of cameras that are granted access.
The total cost to the broadcasters of filming
and transmitting the proceedings is approximately £72,000,
shared equally between the three UK broadcasters. The PA was advised
they could join the operation on a shared basis but declined to
do so. We have subsequently been prepared to provide PA with access
to the material at a charge but this has so far not been possible.
The PA state in their letter that the pool arrangement
"has resulted in digital media being denied access to footage
of clear public interest." This is not the case as digital
news media are able to access pool footage for a fee. As an example,
The Guardian acquired video material in relation to Tony Blair's
BBC ONLINE VIDEO
As you are aware, the BBC has made available
a limited volume of its online video content to be embedded by
third party websites. All the content has been first published
on BBC Online.
The video sharing initiative was driven by the
BBC's desire to be more open with its content, in response to
the changing nature of how audiences are consuming audio-video
on the internet. It is hoped that by working with the growing
trend for allowing content to be shared and embedded across the
web, the BBC will be better able to serve licence fee payers and
support wider access to its content. We regard this initiative
as an example of the BBC behaving as a public service partner
with other media organisations.
The BBC discussed the initiative on several
occasions with representatives from PA. The initiative was considered
against the BBC's Fair Trading Guidelines and we ensured compliance
with all regulatory requirements. We intend to undertake a follow-up
review of the competitive impact of the proposal shortly. As part
of this review, we will be seeking the views of, and input from,
key stakeholders, including PA.
The video clips that the BBC makes available
are not intended to constitute a comprehensive video offer but
rather to complement news material which is commercially available.
The UK newspapers that have embedded BBC content share this view.
The BBC content has the following characteristics
that differentiate it from material that is commercially available:
Content is limited to four genres;
it does not include, for example, the most commercially attractive
genres such as entertainment news and sport;
Third parties will not be able to
commercialise BBC content (i.e. no pre-roll video advertisements
will be permitted and there will be clear separation between advertising
on a page and embedded BBC content);
The BBC news content that can be
embedded by third parties will be the same content that is available
on BBC Online. All BBC content will appear in a BBC branded player;
we are not making available either "white-labelled"
news content (that third parties could brand as their own or editorialise),
or "bespoke" services or content to meet third party
We therefore do not accept PA's claims that
the initiative "clearly distorts the market" and constitutes
"content dumping" by the BBC. Such claims have not been
supported by any evidence or analysis supplied to us by PA. Indeed,
we note that two of the newspapers who signed-up to use BBC content
(The Independent and the Daily Mail) at a similar
time entered into commercial arrangements with the PA and ITN
respectively to acquire online video content.
In line with the BBC's commitment to partnerships
and supporting the local media ecology where possible, we are
looking at the possibility of opening-up access to some of our
regional TV news material that appears on BBC Online. We mentioned
this idea to PA in the spirit of dialogue. We have not however
made a decision to pursue it and any proposal will have regard
to potential competitive impact as is routinely the case.
Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News