BSkyB attacks BBC strategy review, iPlayer

UK pay-TV provider BSkyB has launched a fresh assault on public broadcaster the BBC on two fronts. The News Corp-backed company has published a sharply worded criticism of the terms of the strategy review carried out by the BBC Trust, and has also attacked the latest version of the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service.

In its response to the strategy review, Sky went as far as to accuse the BBC Trust, the BBC’s governing body, of failing to discharge its responsibilities to set the BBC’s strategy by handing responsibility for the first state of the review to the BBC Executive. “In doing so the Trust has demonstrated that it is not willing or able to set the strategic direction of the BBC or require that the Executive makes difficult choices in the public interest,” Sky said. Sky accused the Trust and the Executive of failing to take into account the impact of the BBC’s activities on the commercial sector, alleging that the Executive’s proposals – notably the closure of radio service 6Music – “tinker around the edges of the BBC’s activities, giving the impression of change while avoiding the fundamental questions over the BBC’s future strategic decision”. Sky also criticised the BBC’s plan to reallocate £600m (€704m) of spending to new programming and its plan to cut acquisitions of international shows “by just 20%”.

Sky has separately reacted to yesterday’s unveiling of a new version of the popular iPlayer service by accussing the BBC of reinventing the online catch-up services as an aggregator “without appropriate regulatory review”. The new version will allow viewers searching for programmes provided by rival broadcasters to link to their sites, and will embed metadata from shows provided by the other broadcasters. Sky compared the latest initiatives to last year’s Project Marquee proposal, where the BBC planned to go somewhat further by sharing iPlayer content and technology with rivals. However, Sky argues that the BBC’s current plans would allow it to retain control of the order in which broadcasters appear on the iPlayer EPG, for example.