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BBC backs EU plan, eyes accessible iPlayer

iPlayer across four screens light backgroundThe BBC has welcomed the EU’s new cross-border copyright proposals, and said that government plans to modernise the licence fee will make it possible to verify iPlayer users abroad.

In a statement, the BBC said: “We are interested in being able to allow UK licence-fee payers to access BBC iPlayer while they are on holiday in the EU.”

This backs plans set out by the EU yesterday that will allow European residents to travel with the digital content they have purchased or subscribed to at home.

The UK public broadcaster said that the UK government’s commitment to modernise the licence fee next year to include on-demand as well as linear viewing “will mean users of BBC iPlayer could be verified as UK licence-fee payers while they are on holiday in the EU”.

However, the BBC cautioned that there are still complex technical issues to resolve and that “aspects of the [European] Commission’s proposal need clarification”.

UK producers’ body PACT has already said there is “significant concern among producers, distributors and broadcasters of film and TV content in the UK and across the EU” around the EC’s plan, as it could undermine the exclusive territorial basis that most TV companies adhere to.

Announcing the proposed regulation to permit “cross-border portability of online content services” yesterday, the European Commission’s impact assessment document made reference to the iPlayer as a “concrete example” of an online service that uses access restrictions based on geographic location.

“Many [consumers] report seeking to view a video online via YouTube, but being blocked by a national collective management organisation for copyrighted content,” said the European Commission. “Others signal the lack of access to popular video-on-demand services such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer, which are currently only available to the residents of some EU Member States.”

Netflix has already said it is looking into the plan and that it is “committed to providing Netflix members with great programming wherever they are”.

The BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, previously trialed a subscription-based version of the iPlayer in Europe, however it officially ended the Global iPlayer scheme earlier this year.

The iPlayer catch-up service is currently available free for UK TV viewers, with a TV licence only required for viewing live, linear BBC TV content.