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BBC and Pact come to terms on commissioning

After months of negotiation, the BBC and independent production org Pact have agreed upon new terms of trade for commissioning independent TV productions in the U.K.
September 1, 2004

After months of negotiation, the BBC and independent production org Pact have agreed upon new terms of trade for commissioning independent TV productions in the U.K.

Indie studios now own all rights (including copyright) to the shows they produce, and the Beeb can license this programming for use across all of its channels and public-service new media outlets for five years. When the initial term is up, the pubcaster has the right to extend the license once by two years. After that, it can renegotiate with the producer for rights to returning series every two years.

The number of times a show can be aired is now established in the deal, and any repeats will entail an additional fee. Regional programs – for example, a show that was commissioned for BBC Scotland but is now airing across the board – will also receive an enhanced payment.

Indies maintain control of all rights – including international, format, commercial new media, DVD and merchandising. BBC branding will always appear on products such as DVDs and books that are tied directly to the series, but the pubcaster can refuse to be linked to merchandise that it feels would bring its brand into disrepute.

On the heels of the agreement with Pact, the U.K.’s broadcast regulatory body Ofcom has announced that the BBC went above and beyond its 25% independent production quota for the 2003/2004 season by 3.8%. Across the pubcaster’s channels, including its digital services, the BBC commissioned more than 2,300 hours from 175 indies, spending a total of US$567 million. The biggest chunks went to entertainment programming (47%) and documentaries (37%), but the Beeb also met the 25% threshold in children’s programming.

The BBC hasn’t always been quite so good with this quota, having failed to meet it for three years running. According to Pact, this lag has cost the sector more than US$141 million.

The pubcaster was already well on its way to exceeding the quota when prodco Endemol was reclassified as a qualifying indie earlier this year. The Hilversum, Netherlands-based studio is responsible for producing strippable BBC staples including Changing Rooms and Fame Academy.

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