Trust rejects IP Vision's iPlayer appeal

Tuesday, December 22 2009, 11:07 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

The BBC Trust has rejected a fair trading appeal from IP Vision raised after the firm was denied the opportunity to create its own version of the BBC iPlayer.

The hybrid digital TV receiver firm wanted to create its own bespoke flavour of the catch-up platform to offer syndication of the BBC's on-demand content.

After the BBC Executive denied the request, IP Vision complained that the decision actually breached the corporation's own fair trading policy and syndication guidelines, which stipulate how BBC content should be made available to third parties. IP Vision also claimed that the ruling transgressed competition law.

In response, the Trust's Finance and Compliance Committee (FCC) found no breach of policy, law or guidelines in the BBC's actions, and so rejected the appeal.

The FCC did acknowledge that the BBC had failed to properly asses the competitive impact of its refusal to let IP Vision self-build a version of the iPlayer. However, as an effective market impact assessment would have still resulted in IP Vision's request being turned down, the Trust opted to take no further action.

The substantive points of the complaint were actually dismissed at a fairly early stage, but the appeal was still advanced to the FCC because it raised some pertinent points about the BBC's "seemingly arbitrary changes in policy, attitude and long periods of non-responsiveness". IP Vision can still now take its appeal to the relevant competition authorities if it so wishes.

"The market for on-demand content is developing dynamically. In light of the ongoing success of the iPlayer, the Trust's job when reviewing the BBC Executive's approach to syndication, is to ensure that the Executive considers both positive and negative impacts on the sector," said FCC chair Rotha Johnson.

"The Executive not only has to make sure that users have a consistent iPlayer experience regardless of the platform, thereby safeguarding the BBC's brand, but also has to consider the value for money of any investment in another platform.

"In this case, the Trust found that the Executive had provided reasonable arguments as to why implementing a self-build iPlayer for IP Vision could have jeopardised both value for money and the BBC's brand."

The Trust is currently carrying out a scheduled review of the BBC's syndication policy, just two years after the new guidelines were first implemented.

In October, the BBC published additional information on how the iPlayer will be expanded to third-party providers, including the clarification that bespoke versions of the service will only be created for platforms with over 500,000 users. A ban was also formalised on third parties building their own versions of the catch-up platform.

However, Johnson added: "This clarification to the BBC's syndication policy should have come to us for the necessary scrutiny before being published and we'll be looking carefully at the policy and guidelines overall as part of our planned review early next year."