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Would you pay to download from the BBC archives?

How would you feel about paying the BBC to download and keep some of its shows? The BBC’s new digital store could offer just that – but will TV licence fee payers be willing cough up the dosh?

BBC director-general Mark Thompson recently announced ‘Project Barcelona’ – a proposal that could let us permanently download a vast selection of shows via a new BBC digital store.

While all the most popular TV series inevitably make it onto DVD these days, that still leaves a huge chunk of entertainment that fades into obscurity. The Beeb estimates that more than 90% of its programmes are no longer available after their limited time on the BBC iPlayer is up.

Paying twice for the same content?

Early concerns about the service focus on whether the BBC’s proposal will adversely affect other retailers – such as iTunes – that currently sell BBC programmes as downloads.

And there’s also a big question mark hanging over whether it’s right for the BBC to ask licence fee payers to pay again to keep downloads of shows that were funded by their fee in the first place.

The way I see it, my TV licence pays for the programmes to be made. If I want to keep a show and watch it over and over again, I don’t expect it to be free. If the BBC puts the money from my purchase into making more of the stuff I like, great, although there are bound to be some costs involved in setting up and running the online store.

There are also likely to be a few technicalities to iron out, and it’s far from being a done deal – plans will be put to the BBC Trust later in the year. It’s also not yet clear what proportion of the BBC’s archive will be available, or how modest the ‘modest fee’ will be (some sources hypothesise £1.89).

Is it worth it for TV gold?

So, is this a welcome change that will allow us to get our hands on some TV gold for a few quid, or would you resent paying the BBC to download your favourite shows?

Personally, I like the idea if it means I can get my hands on TV gems from the past which have never seen the light of day on DVD. The question is: how much would you be willing to pay for nostalgia, and will those 70s and 80s shows that we remember so fondly still be worth watching again, decades later?

Oh and my personal request to the Beeb: if you’re starting with a small portion of the archive please put Over Here at the top of the pile. I hope it really was as good as I remember…

Would you pay to download shows from the BBC archives?

No - BBC shows should be free for licence fee payers (60%, 622 Votes)

Maybe - if the price is right and the shows are good (27%, 283 Votes)

Yes - I'd love to pay for some BBC TV gold (12%, 129 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,034

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I would certainly pay to download and keep BBC programs – provided they are cheap enough. The price would definitely be the deciding factor – Around about £0:50 to £1:50 would encourage me to have my own archive. £2 would encourage me to find another way.

I already have an archive of 100’s of 1930s to 1980s radio TV and Films that are no longer copyrighted – there are 100s more I would like,

Steve says:
17 March 2012

I agree with Ricard and would pay a small fee but I suspect they will over price it as always.


The TV license is something of an irrelevance here. It is a license to operate receiving equipment in the UK that is capable of viewing or recording transmissions as they are being broadcast on TV channels. It doesn’t matter if you are watching ITV or a foreign TV channel, via transmitter, satellite, cable or broadband.

Whilst the revenue from this tax funds the making of BBC television programs, it does not mean license payers own the rights to BBC material, any more than paying for a Vehicle “Road Fund” license means you now own the roads and can drive on them without further cost.

I’m assuming the BBC digital store will be accessible worldwide. Therefore I would hope the price of material is set at a commercial rate to maximize revenue and provide more direct funding of the BBC.

However, it would also make sense for current TV license holders to be given a significant discount, or credits towards future purchases at every license renewal, if only as a means of tracking and reducing license evasion.


As the TV licensing fee is set by the government and paid by the vast majority of householders why have a licence at all ?
The cost in collecting the fee and enforcement is significant.
Just pay the BBC an annual grant to provide the same service.
This would also do away with all the anomalies of internet access, use in caravans, nursing homes etc.
End result the BBC would get the same money and a significant saving would be made from the lack of admin.


I am in complete disagreement with paying for this, to ask us to do so is crass cheekiness to put it mildly.

The license fee [a tax by another name] is of paramount relevance at is used to fund the BBC, not just make programmes.
We the license payer are funding this core business, instead of using our monies wisely, the BBC [like most publicly funded organisations] has been a hotbed of waste for years, paying OTT salaries, giving ridiculous expense accounts to its own staff and basically peeing a lot of our money down the drain, and with complete unaccountability to we who pay their bills.

Now we are being asked to pay to set up a service to charge us for downloading programmes we have paid to make.
All BBC archive material should be free to download in the UK, for non UK downloads a charge should be levied.
The previous comparison to road Tax is disingenuous, as road tax gives you entitlement to use the road whenever you want, not ownership of the roads, just as the license fee should give you entitlement to view the programmes you have already paid for whenever you want, not ownership of the Beeb.
After all, you dont have to pay more road tax [yet] to drive on the roads your road tax has paid to build [what’s left of it after the Govt’s cut]


@M. Disagree with my comments, but do not to question my sincerity or integrity. I am not a spokesperson for the BBC, or anyone else, so I would have no reason to make “disingenuous” remarks on this Conversation.


My use of disingenuous was not an expression of a perceived lack of sincerity, I used it too mean ‘not straightforward, as in an inaccurate comparison, which I believe it is.
Disingenuous is another word whose meaning is changing with these modern times, please read it in the context of the argument, and not as a personal sleight.


@M – Of course, I accept your explanation. I’m afraid I still use the word to describe Teflon-coated politicians trying to spin their way out of some predicament, so I may have overreacted.



Thank you. I will try and be more careful with my word selection in future 🙂