iPlayer archive

by chabonsby

Daniel Knowles is one of the more interesting voices in the Telegraph, admittedly not that great an achievement considering the competition prominently includes the psychotic Nile Gardiner, professional troll James Delingpole and the only Briton that I know to have had a major Hollywood film based on how much of a tool he is*. Regardless, if you can look past his comically public school profile picture he’s rather readable, especially when he comes out with very un-Telegraph ideas, such as social workers being, by and large, worthy of our admiration. Part of Knowles’ case is based on the recent BBC documentary series ‘Protecting our Children‘, which I saw the first two episodes of. You, however, can not see this fascinating insight into a vitally important and neglected part of British society, because it was shown more than a week ago.

The BBC iPlayer is a fine thing, especially since they started opening it up to multiple formats. It’s vastly superior to the competition, even 4OD, in all respects bar one: everything is removed after a week at the very most. This has always seemed ridiculously arbitrary and entirely without merit, especially in comparison to the impressive archive 4OD offers. Not least because Channel 4 is actually a money-making organisation that should, in theory, have far greater concerns about undercutting DVD sales than a corporation with a legally guaranteed income. Clearly the DVD issue is involved, and perhaps the BBC’s need to make a few quid excuses a lack of long term availability for the likes of ‘Doctor Who’ or ‘Call the Midwife’, but ‘Protecting our Children’ is hardly likely to be appearing on Amazon any time soon. So why no archive of any sort, especially when such a thing exists for much of BBC radio.

The reasoning behind this absence isn’t entirely clear. It occurred to me to email the BBC and ask, but they were completely useless and obfuscating beyond some vague comments about ‘legal issues’. I remember reading years ago that a planned archive was shelved due, at least in part, to opposition from other broadcasters. Unsurprisingly Sky was the forefront of this and so when it’s come up in conversation in the past (there is a clamour for it, it’s not just me wanting to be able to watch ‘The Ascent of Man’) I’ve tended to blame Rupert Murdoch. There’s clearly more to it than that however, and recent developments have me annoyed on two fronts. The BBC recently rolled out an international version of the iPlayer, available on subscription, and Australians and the rest do get to see some archival content, for an annual cost of roughly a third of the licence fee. Not so unreasonable, until you learn that the BBC is finally edging towards progress, but intends to charge us for the privilege of watching TV we’ve already paid for. Oh well, at least this long overdue feature is on it’s way. I can look forward to being overcharged to watch old documentaries as soon as 2016…

*If for some reason Toby Young ever saw this post and was disappointed to learn I don’t like him, which seems unlikely on both counts, then he could at least support my argument here. One interesting documentary that I’ve seen on the iPlayer in the past, and which I imagine he feels should be available permanently, was his argument for Free Schools.