As a young and naive small-town Texas boy, I had no idea how television worked in Europe. It wasn’t until my first year in film school (RTF 305, professor John Downing) that I learned about the UK policy of “TV taxes” and the fact that in England, there’s a certain sense of entitlement when it comes to television access. This is part of the reason, I would later learn, that BBC and Channel 4 original programming is often so damn good. So, how will the UK system of television programming adjust to the very American monetization of content? Not well, it seems.
Very recently, it was announced that BBC programs would be the first UK broadcast shows made available for sale on iTunes. No big deal, right? Americans are used to it, and shows like The Office, 30 Rock, and South Park have thrived on this. According to The Daily Mail, however, there is outrage in England over this new deal with the BBC. From Paul Revoir’s article on the situation:
Critics said they have already paid, through the licence fee, and downloads should be free. Around ten series will initially be made available on Apple’s iTunes site by BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm. They include Torchwood, Spooks and Robin Hood.
In future, episodes of classic shows such as Porridge and Only Fools and Horses may also be offered for downloading. Recently – shown programmes will be made available first on the BBC’s iPlayer internet service, and on iTunes later.
The decision to charge for downloads is the latest in a line of controversial moves by BBC Worldwide. Since the BBC received a lower than expected licence fee, the commercial arm has been charged with upping its profits. It has been criticised for buying travel publisher Lonely Planet and launching TV and radio channels around the world.
John Beyer of TV pressure group Mediawatch UK said: “The idea that people will be charged for this service seems inconsistent with the BBC’s free downloading it has been widely promoting.”
Of course, in the States, TV networks have been doing both (free streaming and selling episodes) for some time now. Also, one could argue that with this same logic, Americans should feel cheated for buying episodes of basic or premium cable shows they are essentially already paying for. Are Americans too easy to win over, and missing the point? Or, are the Brits too picky?