Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1180 - 1182)


Mr Andy Duncan and Mr David Scott

  Q1180  Lord Maxton: May I just look to what is already becoming the future in a sense and that is, and it has happened, certainly so far as I am concerned, since we saw you last? We are moving into the world of what I call multiple choice rather than multiple channels. I am a cable subscriber and one of the things which is already happening is that I am now being offered what TeleWest call teleport, which is the ability to watch programmes from the last week at any point, any time, forward them, fast forward them, reverse them, watch them, watch films, pay for them, programmes and all the rest of it. At the moment, as far as I can see, they are very largely showing BBC programming. Are you in negotiation with these companies for that sort of facility to show your programmes?

  Mr Duncan: Yes, we are. Probably the single most profound issue that we are facing at the moment is the Channel 4 position vis-a"-vis rights. Essentially, we are a publisher/broadcaster, so we do not have our own production base and in that sense we are different to the BBC or ITV, the majority of whose programmes are produced in-house. But for all of the broadcasters there is a very profound issue, as the audiences want to get programmes and content when they want them, how they want them, on the device that they want, around the rights management in terms of new media platforms, which is very important and is being looked at as part of an Ofcom production sector review as we speak. We are very, very anxious about it. To be very specific, we fully fund the programmes, we take all the risk. At the moment, we have, in exchange for fully funding the programmes, rights to show that programme on Channel 4 twice, potential rights to show it across our emerging digital portfolio, More4 and E4 and so on. We think it absolutely essential that we also have the ability to show those programmes on broadband, on demand, potentially versions of those shows via a mobile and so on. We are particularly arguing for two things. One is a public service window which we think needs to be around 30 days where we are able potentially to offer those for free. Advertising revenue might be generated but it would be largely substitutional from the main broadcast platforms and subsequently some sort of fair share of any commercial revenue which is generated between ourselves and the independent sector. If a fair outcome is achieved by the Ofcom review, that would be very satisfactory. If in fact a bad outcome is achieved, particularly for us and Channel Five, but I should say especially Channel 4 with our public remit, it would be quite devastating and our ability to deliver our remit going forward would be badly damaged.

  Q1181  Lord Maxton: Presumably one of the real problems is the advertising revenue. If I can watch one of your programmes the following day or even two hours later and I am able to fast forward through the adverts every time they come on, then the advertisers are going to look at you and say "Why do we bother"?

  Mr Duncan: Yes, there are two very specific points. The basic business model of paying for a programme, showing a programme then getting the money back via advertising would be broken. If people are watching some sort of catch-up service or on demand or watching it after the event, you could have a mechanism where they are still advertising there but it will have been substitutional from the main broadcast platforms. If people are paying subscriptions, particularly if we do not get that money, that money goes to the independent sector for example, that means our ability to fully fund programmes is taken away. It is a very, very important issue. The BBC and ITV are also concerned about it, but they are somewhat cushioned because of their in-house production.

  Q1182  Chairman: Thank you very much. Did you want to make any other points to us?

  Mr Duncan: I do not think so.

  Chairman: Thank you very much; you have been very patient with us. Thank you for coming again and thank you for your evidence, which was very clear. If we have any extra points, perhaps we could write to you.

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