BBC iPlayer Notches Up 1 Million Viewers In 20 Days | British MPs Still Critical Of Inequality

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BBC iPlayer Notches Up 1 Million Viewers In 20 Days | British MPs Still Critical Of InequalityThe BBC iPlayer relaunched at the end of last year, with the British Broadcasting Corporation trying to iron out some of the bugs, and make the service available for all.

After 20 days out of beta, the BBC announced that the iPlayer has racked up 1 million viewers, and more than 3.5 million programmes have been viewed using the television on demand service.

That’s an average of over 250,000 programmes either streamed or downloaded every day since the Christmas Day launch. Quite impressive for a UK based operation showing just BBC programmes.

Niche Programming To A Wider Audience

Ashley Highfield, the BBC’s director of future media and technology, said:

“[It] demonstrates how on demand services can bring niche programming to a wider audience”.

The BBC’s own figures show that streaming outnumbers downloads by an 8-1 ratio, which though a huge difference, is hardly surprising when you realise how many limitations are being placed on potential downloaders. And that is the problem.

Inequality In The Service

When the iPlayer was launched in beta way back in July 2007, both MPs, and the British public, who conspired to compile a 16,000 strong petition, were flummoxed by the decision to only allow people with Windows based operating systems to download shows.

Anyone else, which included Linux and Mac users, and even non Internet Explorer users, were completely refused the chance to access the service.

After the outrage, the BBC did try to make amends, mainly because as a public broadcaster, they have to, or risk losing their status, and consequently, the publicly funded licence fee.

So the relaunch came complete with the opportunity for non-Windows based users to use the Adobe Flash support to stream the programmes online instead.

BBC iPLayer Screenshot

Still Not Good Enough

That isn’t enough for some though, with a British MP today launching an attack on the BBC, and it’s director general over the inequality of the system.

Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh argued against the unfair system and directed his anger towards Mark Thompson at a public accounts select committee session on BBC procurement.

He said:

“The BBC, as a public organisation, was wrong in giving Microsoft a commercial advantage.”

Pugh also wrote to BBC director general Thompson with his concerns following the meeting, saying:

“By guaranteeing full functionality to the products of one software vendor, (the BBC) is as a public body handing a commercial advantage to that company – effectively illegal state aid!”

“What might be a pragmatic choice for a privately funded company becomes deeply problematic for a public corporation.”

“I recognise and welcome the assurances that the BBC and you personally have given on this subject but wonder whether the sheer novelty of the new media has blinded many to the clear commercial inequity in the delivery of it.”


I’m personally torn on the issue, because as much as I think the BBC has a duty to offer the full range of its services to everyone, I can also see the problems they face in doing so.

Making the iPlayer work on every single different operating system, and browser, may make the whole thing a complicated, and costly venture. I’d rather have an iPlayer with limited functionality, than no iPlayer at all.