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BBC wins landmark 'Top Gear', BBC Food YouTube channels appeal

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BBC Worldwide, the corporation's commercial arm, has today won a precedent-setting appeal against the Top Gear and BBC Food YouTube channels falling under the scope of video on-demand regulation.

In May 2011, UK regulator the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) determined that the two YouTube channels should be regulated as the content they were offering was comparable to television programmes.

BBC Top Gear YouTube channel screenshot


This would have meant that Top Gear and BBC Food on YouTube would have come under the Communications Act 2003, and Worldwide would also have had to pay an annual fee to ATVOD for both channels.

But after Worldwide appealed the decision, Ofcom has today backed the media firm in both cases.

ATVOD had argued that Worldwide was offering "TV-like" content on the channels, such as David Tennant Interview & Speed Lap on Top Gear, an 8-minute and 53-second programme featuring the former Doctor Who star being interviewed and then driving the "reasonably priced car" around the lap.

It also pointed to How to Make Potato Cakes - Floyd on Britain and Ireland on BBC Food, a 5-minute and 25-second cookery programme featuring the late celebrity chef, preceded by an advert.

However, Ofcom backed Worldwide's position that whilst such content was similar to television programme services, it was "in the form of clips of programmes, not programmes in themselves".

Worldwide said that BBC iPlayer, which is regulated by ATVOD, offers full-length programmes, but the maximum clip length on the Top Gear and BBC Food YouTube channels is 15 minutes.

ATVOD chief executive Pete Johnson accepted the decision, and said that the regulator will now consider its implications for ranking video on-demand in the future.

"The question of whether video content is 'comparable' to programmes normally included in television broadcasts is far from straightforward," he said.

"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."

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