BBC's iMP Dilemma
In this week's Media Guardian, Steve Hewlett described the debate surrounding BBC's Interactive Media Player rollout. iMP allows viewers to download BBC programmes and watch them on their computers. In the recent trials, programmes were available for a week after broadcast, and cost nothing.
Now BBC has to decide how to proceed, and a major part of the decision is whether to charge for downloads.
I think the probable outcome is that the first 7 days will be free, but any downloads after this will have to be paid for. And this would be fair. If BBC starts giving away free content, its scale means that the value of the whole sector is diminished - and not just the download sector, physical media as well. How can 2entertain sell Little Britain DVDs, for example, if they are widely and easily available for free?
And why should content be free anyway? The argument often used is that we've already paid a license fee, but that fee entitles us to watch the BBC's broadcast output. But that doesn't wash. Just because you've paid McDonalds for a burger, doesn't mean they're going to give you a coke for nothing.
For the sake of the whole industry, BBC must act like a commercial organisation this time.