BBC restricts access to historical Indian content

The Beeb is opening its archives on India and Pakistan on the occasion of 60 years of India and Pakistan’s independence. Among the archives, I’m told, is rare radio footage. It’s a closed archive trial, and being a history buff, I thought I’d sign up for it. Then came the shocker: Access to the archives is available only to UK residents.

Here’s a screenshot of the too-bad-you’re-accessing-this-from-India page:


I think it’s rather stupid to restrict access to archival content by region, unless they’ve sold rights to this content to people outside the UK…and strange for a company that spoke about aggressive plans for India at the end of FY06 (can’t find the link). Maybe they intend to open the archives on August 14th.

I just checked, and BBC allows access to broadband content only to UK residents, citing bandwidth costs as the reason. Well, why not upload it on YouTube or Twango?

I’m going to write I have written to the BBC to suggest that they allow access to this content from India as well. In case you want to, here’s complaints,

Update: For the text of the response, click more.

Dear Mr Pahwa

Thank you for your e-mail.

I understand that you have concerns you are unable to access historical video footage related to India and Pakistan.

Broadband content is expensive for the BBC to stream. The BBC has therefore decided to limit access to most of its broadband content to people in the UK in order to ensure best value for the UK licence fee. In addition, there are often broadcast rights restrictions which mean that content intended for a UK audience cannot be made available overseas.

However, audiences to the BBC News website from outside the UK can now choose to see news video clips in broadband. This service is provided by BBC World, the BBC‘s international, commercially-funded news channel. Clips may therefore have advertising around the video. Overseas users who wish to view news clips without ads will still be able to access the narrowband service, which continues to be available without advertising.

You can also view some BBC entertainment content via BBC Worldwide on YouTube. This is also a commercially-funded service and therefore includes a limited amount of advertising around the video content.

For details of other BBC international services, such as BBC World, BBC World Service and BBC America, please see There may also be commercial providers who have deals with the BBC in your particular territory.

Please be assured that your comments have been fully registered on a daily audience log which is made available throughout the BBC including senior management. Feedback of this nature helps us when making decisions about future BBC programmes and your comment will play a part in this process.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact the BBC.


Jonathan Dunlop
BBC Information

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  1. Nikhil: Thanks for telling me about this. I emailed them and they invited me to register for the trial.

    The only reason that I can think of for a closed trial is that BBC programming is funded by TV licence fee payers resident in the UK. The BBC charter defines the organisation’s responsibility being primarily to these licence fee payers. So they are well within their rights to limit access to the content thus produced.

    Plus they are collecting a lot of information under the UK Data Protection Act from the applicants for the closed trial. The Data Protection guarantees cannot apply across jurisdictions and they are protecting themselves I guess.

    They also want a lot of active feedback from the registered trial panellists.

    I do agree however that to restrict access to materials about India and Pakistan to people in India and Pakistan is a bit naff..

    Let me know how the complaint fares.

  2. Nix: I got my archive trials password today. Did you hear anything from the BBC?

    Acc to the mail it is a beta of sorts, so they might well open it to the global public at a later date.


  3. Ah, I see. Interestingly the letter from Auntie says pretty much the same things as I said in my first comment…

    I hope they will change the access rules some time. They have talked to YouTube about making BBC programmes available on a separate channel. Let’s see how long it takes.

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