Partnerships 'can save public service TV'

The BBC has unveiled a range of partnership proposals, including sharing the technology behind iPlayer, designed to "secure the future" of Britain's public service broadcasting system.

The corporation said that if fully adopted, the partnerships could be worth as much as £120m a year by 2014. Among the many options it unveiled today, it has suggested that: a "public service iPlayer" be developed, with the networking and front-end technologies behind the popular content on demand system shared with other public service broadcasters; other PSBs join in the BBC and ITV's partnership with BT to deliver on demand content to set top boxes over broadband; that regional news production and premises be shared; the BBC's website be used to link to other public service content; and that BBC Worldwide could "explore a series of commercial areas of cooperation" with Channel 4.

Effective immediately, the BBC will waive its TV listings charges, "benefiting the newspaper and magazine sector", and will begin a non-exclusive pilot scheme to share content with newspapers.

"These proposals directly address the central question of the public service broadcasting debate: how we ensure a sustainable future in the digital age," said BBC director-general Mark Thompson. "We are proposing that the BBC shares some of the benefits of its scale and security with the rest of the industry to strengthen it for the long term.

"While the BBC is also facing significant economic challenges, we can still play a valuable role in underpinning public service broadcasting at a time when the industry is grappling with huge strategic challenges.

"Through partnerships I believe broadcasters can help secure the future of public service broadcasting in this country."

The proposals drew mixed reaction from the UK's other public service broadcasters. Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan characterised the plans as "overdue recognition from the BBC that it should be using its privileged position to help support the broader public service ecology", but denied that the bulk of the proposals would "offer any tangible financial benefit for Channel 4".

Five director of strategy Charles Constable said that the broadcaster "welcomes the proposals", specifically the plans for "sharing the iPlayer and developing IPTV".

A spokesperson for ITV pointed to its "good track record of collaboration" with the BBC "on projects such as Kangaroo, Freeview and Freesat", and said it would give the proposals "careful consideration".