BBC could help balance its books by charging users of its massively popular iPlayer VOD site.

Lorraine Heggessey, until recently a BBC very senior staffer but now CEO of production house Talkback Thames, said that the BBC could help balance its books by charging users of its massively popular iPlayer VOD site. BBC has rumbled on with the great and the good of British broadcasting making their feelings known.

Heggessey’s boss, Tony Cohen, CEO of Fremantle Media, politely “welcomed” the Parliamentary report on the state of BBC Worldwide, then kicked hard. “The BBC Trust's response is very disappointing. It fails to address many of the Committee’s and the affected industries' concerns raised by the unjustified expansion of the BBC’s commercial activities.

The Trust has completely avoided taking any action on the major issues that impact on the market and competition – like the first-look deal between the BBC and BBC Worldwide, the lack of transparency on the transfer pricing regime and the expansion into areas outside of the BBC’s public service remit and outside the UK. We support the [all-party committee’s] call for greater commitment from the Trust in reviewing the BBC’s commercial operations in future.”

FremantleMedia is conducting its own feasibility study on whether such ‘micro-payments’ could work in practice, and how much users might be prepared to pay. Their view is that, by and large, viewers would be prepared to cough up £2 for some programming.

“The BBC Trust needs to further explain their rationale for their decisions,” added McVay. Chris Bonney, managing director of Outright Distribution and rights exploitation representative on Pact Council said: “By choosing not to open up the market for its programmes to competitive bidding the Trust seems to have ignored the opportunity to secure a true market valuation and maximize returns to the BBC.”

UK production trade body PACT also jumped into the dog-fight, emphasising the Committee’s comment that the BBC Trust is “not coherent” in its thinking. Chief executive for Pact, John McVay said that the BBC Trust has failed to justify in their response the continuing first look arrangements between the BBC and BBC Worldwide, which is something that the Select Committee Report recommended be discontinued. “We concur with the Select Committee that it is not good enough just because the Trust says so,” he said.