IFNCs: Consortia May Have To Give Away Content For Free

Winners of public money that will support independently-funded news consortia (IFNCs) could be forced to make their content available for free re-use by the public and other organisations

“If you take this stack of video stories about a region and you create a kind of syndication model – it’s probably a free syndication model – you actually create an enabling mechanism for people to access this video content and do something with it,” Ofcom’s content and standards partner Stewart Purvis told the regulator’s Have We Got News For You? conference in Cardiff on Friday.

“There are lots of rights issues associated with that, which are going to get thrashed out in the tenders.”

Purvis offered the example of NewsFilm Online, a publicly-funded repository of ITN and Reuters (NYSE: TRI) footage he created that lets students and academics “download it, edit it and do what you will with it”. “We cited that in our document as the model for how community media potentially could work. There’s never been a public access model that allowed community media to build on some of the infrastructure that the mainstream media has funded.”

Asked by paidContent:UK to elaborate, Purvis said: “The reason we emphasise this is, it isn’t just about plugging a gap on Channel 3, but also an enabling platform for other media. The vision we put forward was that this material would be more broadly available to both commercial and community media. How that gets translated in to an IFNC contract, if at all, is a matter for government…”

Keith Smith, deputy director for media at the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport, added: “It is something we’re still working through – we understand the problem – we’re talking with lawyers about what we can and can’t do.”

Purvis seemed to be describing a license like Creative Commons or something similar to the BBC’s old Creative Archive. The Press Association has already pledged to make its content available to all comers in this way if it wins public funds for its proposed public reporting idea. The BBC’s offer to share its raw news material with commercial PSB counterparts has gone off the boil.

Ron Jones, CEO of one of five anticipated Wales IFNC bidders, Tinopolis, backed such ideas in a later session: “Imagine a future where much of the BBC’s content was available freely for re-use by community groups, other media, wanting to create – from a social entrepreneurship viewpoint or a commercial viewpoint – a range of new services.

“That would be a huge hub around which we could build a new digital economy … It’s about having that core news data which allows you to build around it further investigation, further research to allow you to serve your community. The availability of the technology to do that simply could be at the heart of this.”