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BBC to invest in iPlayer despite cost-cutting

16 октября 2007

Cost-cutting will not constrain the BBC’s digital ambitions, the broadcaster indicated as it unveiled plans to extend the reach of its iPlayer online video service.

BBC to invest in iPlayer despite cost-cuttingCost-cutting will not constrain the BBC’s digital ambitions, the broadcaster indicated as it unveiled plans to extend the reach of its iPlayer online video service.

“I strongly believe, as does Mark [Thompson, BBC director-general] and the rest of the board, that we do not intend to beggar the digital future,” said Ashley Highfield, BBC’s director of future media and technology.

His comments came ahead of Mr Thompson’s meeting with the BBC Trust on Wednesday to outline cost-cutting plans that could affect up to 2,800 jobs at the corporation.

“If we do not invest in this future, if we instead draw up the wagons around our existing services, the BBC will rapidly cease to be relevant to our audiences and will lose its power to be a force for good in British national life,” Mr Thompson wrote in the Sunday Times this weekend.

The Trust faced “a difficult judgment” striking the right balance between investment in quality content and new digital services, Mr Thompson added, saying the BBC must “free some fresh investment” for digital distribution initiatives.

The iPlayer, which allows viewers to catch up on programmes online up to a week after they have been aired, has caused concern among commercial rivals, whose complaints forced the BBC to rein back its original proposals when it began a trial of the software in April, excluding most book readings and classical music.

On Monday Mr Highfield unveiled plans to make versions of the iPlayer accessible to Apple Mac users, members of Facebook’s social network site and 7,500 wi-fi hotspots in Canary Wharf, Heathrow and McDonald’s branches around the country.

A deal with The Cloud, a service provider operating the UK’s largest wi-fi network, will allow viewers to download episodes of Doctor Who or Strictly Come Dancing in BAA airports and branches of Coffee Republic to their laptops without paying internet connection fees.

The BBC hopes wi-fi distribution – including a version of bbc.co.uk for mobile phones – will attract younger audiences, which the BBC often finds hard to reach.

A separate agreement with Adobe Systems will enable the BBC to make iPlayer available as a streaming service for users of Macintosh and Linux operating systems by Christmas, but will stop short of replicating the download service currently available only to Microsoft Windows users.

Mr Highfield, who also announced plans to link the iPlayer to online TV listings pages of newspapers and magazines, played down concerns of internet service providers about the strain the iPlayer could place on their networks. “The UK’s internet infrastructure is more than capable of coping with the demand,” he said.

BBC divided

The BBC is suffering from divided leadership, a House of Lords committee claimed on Monday as the government rejected its call for greater clarity about the relationship between the broadcaster’s management and the new BBC Trust.

“When the BBC is under attack ... there is an urgent need for a united response,” said Lord Fowler, chairman of the Lords communications committee.

Источник: Financial Times

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