Channel 4 chief calls for encryption of BBC iPlayer as first step to subscription

iPlayer March 14Channel 4 chairman Lord Burns has said that the BBC should encrypt its iPlayer catch-up service as the first step towards replacing the licence fee used to finance the corporation’s activities with a subscription model. 

Speaking at a Future of the Licence Fee event in London, Burns said iPlayer should initially be encrypted so that it is accessible only to licence fee payers, but that the BBC ultimately should look to alternative modes of financing its services such as subscription.

Burns criticized the BBC for being “wedded” to the licence fee and said he believed the model was unsustainable in the long run. He argued that encrypting iPlayer would be a viable first step and that the service could be made available to licence fee payers or to non-payers for a subscription.

Ofcom chairman Colette Bowe said at the same event that conditonal access for the iPlayer “would be a good thing to try”.

However, BBC director of strategy James Purnell said that charging for online delivery at a time when viewing was migrating to online would be a mistake, locking the BBC into broadcast delivery to reach the bulk of its audience.