BBC Sharing its Broadband Video News Content with UK Newspaper Web Sites Free-of-Charge

--BBC Red Button Updates: Maestro Cam, Football League

The BBC announced Tuesday that it has launched a program under which it is sharing its broadband video news content with UK newspaper Web sites free-of-charge. The corporation says that The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, and The Daily Mail will be the first newspapers to embed the content in their sites. It is making the content available under an initiative called Project Marquee, which calls for it--as a publicly funded public-service entity--to share its content, technology and knowledge with other UK entities.

The newspapers will be able to select from video content that has been published on BBC Online in four categories: UK Politics, Business, Health, and Science/Technology. According to the BBC, these categories were chosen because "they represent a good cross-section of the BBC's public service news output on BBC Online." "The BBC set out its intention to open up access to BBC news content as part of the Digital Britain process," BBC deputy director-general and head of journalism, Mark Byford, said in a prepared statement. "We regard this initiative as a core part of the BBC working more effectively as a public service partner, with other media organizations utilizing BBC news content. The way the public is consuming audio and video online is changing. Audiences are increasingly expecting news content to be available wherever they are, rather than always having to navigate to destination sites. We hope this wider distribution will extend audience reach to BBC content. However, we are only providing material already produced on the BBC's news Web site and restricted to certain core public service genres." (Note: in its press release announcing the new broadband video news sharing program, the BBC stated that it "has no intention of extending the range of content to genres such as entertainment news and sport news.") Added Guy Ruddle, head of visuals at the Telegraph Media Group: "The Telegraph is delighted that the BBC will be allowing us and other media organizations to embed some of its clips on our Web sites. We have been waiting for the BBC to start sharing its content with us and this is definitely a step in the right direction in promoting partnerships."

The BBC says that it also plans to make the same video news content available to other UK-based newspaper Web sites: it says it is taking a phased approach, whereby the first newspapers to be able to embed the content are among those with the largest online audiences. According to the corporation, all newspapers with a unique audience of over a million were invited to participate in the program at launch: according to a report in The Guardian, News Corp.-owned newspapers, The Times and The Sun, declined to participate in the program, complaining that it entailed "onerous marketing conditions" designed to promote the BBC. Participants in the program are required to abide by the following conditions: 1) BBC video news content must not be directly connected with any advertising, such as pre-roll and post-roll ads; 2) the video news content that can be embedded by third parties will be the same content that is already available through BBC Online; 3) all BBC video content must appear in a BBC-branded player with "clear on-screen branding" as well as link-backs to BBC Online--the BBC does not plan to make the content available on a white-label basis; and 4) the video content must be available only to UK users and will be geo-blocked. The Guardian reports that independent news broadcaster, ITN, is also unhappy with the new program, and has complained to the BBC Trust, the body tasked with overseeing the corporation, that the program risks "pulling the rug" from underneath its own for-profit news syndication business. In addition, the Guardian says, a spokesperson for the Press Association news agency told it that "we have consistently argued that content dumping by a publicly funded broadcaster distorts the market and undermines the investment in video by commercial providers, such as the Press Association." The spokesperson added that the Press Association "had already raised our concerns formally with the BBC Trust and understood that the discussions we were encouraged to have with the BBC's executive would be a meaningful consultation about the market impact of its proposals."

In other BBC news:
1) In a posting on the BBC TV Platforms Group's blog, Press Red, Rhonagh O'Donnell, interactive platforms producer for BBC Audio and Music Interactive, provides some more detail on the Maestro Cam interactive TV application first covered in an article published on, July 16th. The app, which the corporation plans to offer in conjunction with five Prom concerts this year, debuted last Saturday. "You can press red to watch a close-up camera on the conductor during the Prom," O'Donnell writes. "There are two audio options: Music + Comment, or Music Only. Live commentary is from a conducting mentor from BBC2's 2008 Maestro TV series. The gregarious Matthew Rowe is doing our first two dates, with Peter Stark and Jason Lai joining later in August. They'll be commentating on conductors Vasily Petrenko, Ilan Volkov, Daniel Barenboim and David Robertson. There's also the option to watch the main Prom TV coverage under the red button, if you fancy just the multi-camera action."

According to O'Donnell, the BBC made a significant last-minute change to the application during a rehearsal it held in the Royal Albert Hall Friday night: "We had intended to show full-screen conductor at all times," she writes. "This means you can't see the orchestra at all. During rehearsal we decided to alternate this with picture-in-picture, for different movements/pieces of music: little picture of conductor Sir Charles Mackerras in big multi-camera picture. Especially when Sir Charles was cueing unusual instruments, and the voices of soloists should be seen as well as heard...We went through the camera script in advance to match Matthew's comments with shots of particular instruments, for our 'picture-in-picture' pieces."

O'Donnell also provides an explanation of how the Maestro Cam application works: "The music-only audio and video feeds are sent via microwave link from Royal Albert Hall, to the glamorously entitled 'BIP'--our red-button gallery in BBC Television Center. Matthew Rowe records his commentary live to air. Music + comment audio is mixed together in the BIP, and everything is sent from BIP to red-button playout for broadcast. I operated the desk, with set up from a very helpful vision mixer and our engineers, who also sorted a synch problem we had during the first half."

The Maestro Cam will next be available on August 8th (from 7:00PM): it will be accessed by pressing red from BBC Two; however, it will also be made available on the BBC's Web site (only to UK viewers) from the day after each broadcast through the end of the Proms season (i.e. September 12th).

2) The BBC plans to make its new Saturday night Football League soccer round-up, "The Football League Show" (premieres August 8th), available through the red button from immediately after its broadcast through midday the next day. The show will also be available for seven days through the corporation's online catch-up service, BBC iPlayer.