BBC downloads hurt classical music market

The BBC's plans for an on demand "catch-up service", a central plank of its strategy to remain relevant in the digital age, were dealt a blow yesterday when the media watchdog said it risked having an adverse effect on commercial rivals unless certain elements were axed.

In the first major test of the way the new BBC Trust will work with the media regulator,
Ofcom warned that the BBC iPlayer (above) risked harming DVD sales and could impact on orchestras and classical music revenues. The iPlayer, which has been in development for three years and extensively trialled, will allow licence fee payers to download any television or radio programme from the previous seven days at will, while also watching the BBC's channels live over the web. Altogether it could account for almost 4bn hours of listening and viewing by 2011.

Ofcom also warned the ability to download audio content could have a "serious adverse effect" on the market for audio books and classical music. Commercially available music is already excluded from the plans but Ofcom believes that making recordings by BBC orchestras available for download could hit CD sales and should be excluded or constrained.

Today's Guardian reports problems ahead for the BBC's digital vision. As On An Overgrown Path said in November 2005 - Musicians jobs before free downloads.

* Download the Ofcom report here.

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