Begging more questions than answers - the BBC Trust review: Embedded content

 by Martin Belam, 13 June 2008

I've written a couple of posts about the BBC Trust review of the website, one looking at the Trust's comments on search, and one looking at their views on external linking and the BBC's role as a 'trusted guide' to the Internet. I wanted today to touch on a third topic that concerned me in the report - the way the Trust spoke about the 'atomisation' of BBC content.

"We are also not convinced that BBC management's ambition to be 'part of' the web rather than 'on it' by embedding BBC content in other sites (such as Youtube) plays any role in acting as a 'trusted guide' to the wider web. Rather, this is mainly a way of marketing BBC content to those who might not otherwise access it."

I'm not convinced embedded content plays any part in the 'trusted guide' role either. But then, reading Section 7.3.2 of the management submission, I'm equally unconvinced that this is what the BBC management were trying to claim. And I'm concerned that the Trust see embedded BBC content on the web as mainly 'marketing'.

The BBC Trust is supposed to be acting in the interests of the Licence Fee payer, not just in the interests of the wider commercial market. All the feedback from the public seems to be that people want more 'atomised' BBC content. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone complaining that the BBC does make RSS feeds available, but I have seen lots of requests for them to be full text rather than the current implementation which only provides snippets of news.

Likewise with embedded clips from the iPlayer - the complaints from people using this service aren't that the BBC should do less in this area, but that it is annoying that the clips expire after 7 days for rights reasons, or that shareable clips of popular programmes are not more widely available.

And it isn't as if the BBC is putting restrictive terms and condition around this content preventing other players in the market place benefitting from it. The tie-up between The Telegraph and the BBC's iPlayer is a classic case-in-point. For the BBC it provides the opportunity to deliver content to an audience demographic that may in many cases be begrudging Licence Fee payers who don't value the BBC, and for The Telegraph it provides a stream of content to bolster their strategy of getting people used to watching video whilst on the Telegraph site. A win for the BBC, a win for the market.

iPlayer on The Telegraph site

What worries me is that in the very next paragraph of their report, the BBC Trust state that they believe the 'risk is still very much alive' of the BBC becoming a 'dominant gateway service', and they look to increased external linking as a way of mitigating this risk.

They see public value in sending visitors downstream to other quality sites on the Internet, yet don't seem to see anything other than marketing value in unlocking all of the BBC content that the public has paid for, to make it available for re-use elsewhere on the web.

Personally, I'm convinced that making the BBC's great audio and video content only available at, rather than on The Telegraph or YouTube, will have a much bigger impact in ensuring that the BBC does become that 'dominant gateway' the Trust claims to be seeking to avoid.


I'm not convinced that the Trust are unconvinced so I'll sit back and await to be convinced about the depth of their doubt !:)

Would it be useful for the BBC Trust to have a blog? to link to and address your concerns?

I don't know if a blog is the answer - maybe they need some sort of wiki version of their reports that allow people to add links / annotations / feedback to the finished article.

And here is an example of what I'm talking about - BBC blogs go full fat feeds and the comments start filling with 'Yes, but why not for News as well?'

Keep up to date on my new blog