BBC commercial arm BBC Worldwide last week announced a legal victory that is believed to be a potential precedent-setter for YouTube channels, after it was declared that the broadcaster’s YouTube channels for hit motoring series Top Gear and compilation channel ‘BBC Food’ did not classify as being liable to ‘video on-demand regulations’.
Under a case launched in May 2011, the UK’s ‘Authority for Television On Demand’ (ATVOD) argued that the two channels in question should fall under their jurisdiction (and the Communications Act 2003) due to the content being offered being ‘comparable to television programmes’, and as such worthy of an ‘on-demand’ status.
However, the channels in question argued against this ruling (due mainly to the fact that BBC Worldwide would have been required to pay ATVOD an annual fee to broadcast both channels on YouTube), and after the appeal, chief media regulators Ofcom gave a verdict behind in favour of the BBC for both ‘Top Gear’ and ‘BBC Food’ on Friday (18 January).
ATVOD had used the arguement that Worldwide offered ‘TV-like’ videos on the channel, including lengthy ‘full segments’ from the shows (including Top Gear‘s regular ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ segment, a part which can often last for up to 10 minutes with the celebrity interview included). Cited by ATVOD was one of those celebrity appearances on Top Gear (an ‘interview & power lap’ with former Doctor Who star David Tennant lasting for 8:53), and a clip on BBC Food (‘How to Make Potato Cakes – Floyd on Britain and Ireland’, 5:25).
Despite the lengthy videos (which also have full-length (ad-supported) archive episodes, though the BBC channels in question do not post anything longer than 15 minutes as their ‘maximum clip length’), Ofcom supported BBC Worldwide’s statement that while there were similarities drawn between them and showing the TV shows they represent, it is done: “…in the form of clips of programmes, not programmes in themselves.”
ATVOD’s chief executive Pete Johnson claimed that his organisation accepted the ruling, and that they will now reconsider what constitutes ‘video on-demand’ on YouTube in the future, stating: “The question of whether video content is ‘comparable’ to programmes normally included in television broadcasts is far from straightforward. We will now consider the appeal decisions carefully and analyse the implications for future decisions as to whether a particular service is, or is not, subject to regulations designed to protect consumers.”
The BBC Worldwide channels themselves will be able to continue business as usual without hesitations for the first time in nearly 2 years after the key decision by Ofcom, while the more popular of the pair is likely to be including much more new content over the next few months, with season 19 of the popular series airing as of next Sunday (27 January), with the usual mix of car reviews, challenges, races, and celebrity interviews. Two lengthy ‘clips’ from the show can be seen below: