The Government is looking to ban the BBC from airing its most successful TV shows at peak times as part of a crackdown on “competitive scheduling”, according to reports which emerged today (1 April).
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale is due to publish a white paper on the future of the BBC later this month as part of a new royal charter to safeguard the service for another 11 years.
Whittingdale is tipped to be cracking down on the extent to which the BBC can go head-to-head with commercial broadcasters, with The Mail On Sunday quoting a Government source who explain: "It would be obvious when ITV had a flagship programme they were hoping to get high ratings."
ITV has voiced complaints in the past over the license fee being used to fuel a ratings battle with it and other channels that, unlike the BBC, depend on advertising revenue to stay afloat.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has not confirmed or denied the reports, saying only that no final decisions had been made.
Meanwhile, a BBC source stressed that the public would fight back if programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing and Doctor Who were no longer aired at prime weekend times.
“Research has shown that an element of competition drives up quality across the industry and the public would be deeply concerned if the BBC’s ability to show programmes such as Strictly, Doctor Who, and Sherlock at the times convenient to them were taken away,” the BBC source was quoted as saying.
“It would be odd to make it harder for people to find and watch the programmes they have already paid for.”
However, reports have since emerged that such a move is unlikely to happen.
Don’t worry, Strictly fans - Whitehall sources say it’s “nonsense” to suggest that govt will order BBC to move it from primetime slot
— Emily Ashton (@elashton) May 1, 2016
Elsewhere, Whittingdale is reportedly looking at implementing a paid-for service on the iPlayer in an effort to crackdown on the number of people without TV licences watching its content online, for free.
Whittingdale has previously spoke about closing the £150m “iPlayer loophole” but given little insight into how it might come into effect.
The Telegraph reported that the BBC could be forced to put password controls on iPlayer. Another suggestion has been more integration of the recently launched BBC Store with iPlayer where people would pay to watch shows outside of the catch-up timeframe.