The BBC has called for on-demand players like its iPlayer service to be guaranteed prominence on all major TV platforms.
In a article for the Telegraph ahead of a House of Lords debate on the issue this week, the BBC’s director, radio and education, James Purnell, said it is important that content from the BBC and other public service broadcasters can be easily found in an increasingly digital age.
“Fourteen years ago, Parliament took a far-sighted decision. It insisted that the public service channels including BBC One, ITV and Channel 4 should be at the top of the programme guides on all TV platforms,” said Purnell.
“It made our channels easy to find – especially important for the BBC, whose programmes people have already paid for via their licence fee. But the world has changed, with the rapid growth of digital channels and new services.”
He said that the new generation of set-top boxes have a limited number of content options on their home pages and that if those places are filled by content from the platform owners like Sky, or from Netflix, Amazon or YouTube, “that leaves little room for the on-demand services from our public service broadcasters”.
“Some pay-TV platforms are already making ‘free to air’ services harder to find. On the new Sky box, Sky Q, there is no one button on the remote control that takes you to live TV, the single most popular thing Sky customers do. Instead, ‘Home’ takes you to Top Picks – a set of recommended programmes chosen by Sky,” he complained.
Purnell also argued that the BBC’s children’s channels, CBeebies and CBBC, should be moved up the Sky EPG, as they are currently listed behind 12 US cartoon networks.
A Sky spokesperson described Purnell’s comments as “blatant self-interest”, adding that “for many years we’ve provided the top five slots on the programme guide to public service broadcasters, making them easily accessible.”