YouTube to Add Three BBC-Branded Channels

The BBC has beaten ITV to the goal line in signing a content deal - the terms and length of which have not been disclosed - with YouTube, the streaming video division of Google. Starting today, YouTube has begun offering three new BBC-branded channels containing sharable clips from BBC programmes (spelled here using the Queen's English), though it appears this morning that these clips will be mostly promotional.

The main BBC channel will be classified as a "public service" - which is an important distinction, because the BBC is not a private corporation. It receives its funding from license fees collected by the British government from citizens, so any BBC enterprise that would overtly feature commercial advertising might come under scrutiny by subscribers, and under fire in Parliament.

So this main channel will walk a fine line, showing brief "making of" and "behind the scenes" videos, interviewing stars from BBC shows, and presenting more perennial feature reports from BBC News correspondents. Viewers will be directed to online addresses where they can download entire programs online, though these addresses will likely be from the BBC's own servers, and the pool of authorized downloaders will probably be restricted to those already paying their license fees.

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A BBC News channel will feature as many as 30 clips per day, though most likely arranged out of sequence, and not edited together with continuity like a BBC "bulletin." But it's the third channel that will raise some eyebrows among Britons: The BBC Worldwide channel will feature six-minute excerpts from programs, chained together with commercials ("adverts") in-between. And it will be viewable worldwide, which means UK viewers will be watching ads on a BBC service.

In keeping with its long-standing tradition of objectivity (recent scandals about war coverage notwithstanding), the first to point out the controversy was the BBC itself. "The deal is likely to be controversial with other media companies," BBC News writes this morning, "who have accused the BBC of straying from its licence-fee funded public service remit and moving too far into commercial web ventures."

Critics would also probably include services that didn't sign the deal with YouTube first.

BBC News also notes that YouTube is typically "riddled with pirated film and music clips," but rather than take a more aggressive, American-style approach - hunting down and suing the uploaders of unauthorized material - the BBC's director of future media, Ashley Highfield, said the corporation will actually reserve the right to replace pirated clips shared by individuals with original clips of the same material. This way, the same content is being shared, but this time without the clandestine air.

Variety.com reports this morning that the BBC will receive a percentage of revenue from ads that supplement its YouTube channels' pages.

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