Friday, 26 January 2007

IPTV gets closer but watchdog stunts its growth

For about 2 years now the BBC has been developing and trailing the BBC integrated Media Player (iMP). Using peer to peer technologies the BBC will eventually offer its UK viewers the ability to download for free BBC shows to their computer for a limited time. The UK TV regulator has issued a report this week that recommends the 'limited time' to be reduced from 13 weeks to 14 days. The reason they give is it will have a "negative effect" on commercial rivals. Of course it will, but these services are extras to the commercial rivals and why shouldn't I be able to download BBC content that I have already paid for via my licence fee. It seems to me that it's another case where a regulator it stating it's in the “public interest” but really it's supporting a profit making-shareholder company. I can see the only reason why I would want to support such an organisation is if I was a shareholder. Channel 4 has already launched its equivalent called 4OD but charges around 99p for content. With my limited life on this planet I am starting to wonder whether monopolies are a good thing rather than bad. From what I have seen privatisation and general regulation just causes confusion and barriers for both consumers and the organisations concerned. This may be different for other countries and I have heard of large supermarket chains taking advantage of their power, but with a country as small as the UK, companies know how valuable their brand image is and that one slip up could cause a big loss in profits. The BBC does have an unfair advantage as it gets a steady income from the licence fee payer. However as everyone who watches TV is effetely a shareholder of the BBC how can it be in our interest that we should worry about commercial rivals? Now of course I can see how the competition is a good thing as it pushes the BBC to produce better content so in that respect I agree. But when you are talking about extra services however I believe the regulator has over stepped the line. I will be watching with great interest on this subject and I expect the BBC will compromise. Programs saved to my Sky+ PVR are normally deleted within the week of recording them so I doubt most people will want to save programs to their computer for 13 weeks anyway.