The BBC may consider offering paid access to its website for overseas users, according to Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of new media and technology.

Speaking to media and technology magazine Digital Lifestyles, Mr Highfield said pay-per-view or pay-per-play options might be possible off the back of the BBC's Creative Archive project.

The archive will be an extensive library of BBC radio and TV programmes, available free of charge in the UK for non-commercial use. The first stage of the archive goes live this autumn and will include natural history footage.

"It's something that's up for debate. The licence fee extends just to the UK and therefore it is a completely legitimate framework for us to have pay models outside the UK," said Mr Highfield.

BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the BBC, already sells BBC content to other broadcasters around the world although the corporation has never sold content to individuals on a commercial basis.

"It can never be and will never be the major driver for the products. We can't have a commercial tail wagging a public service dog."

The BBC is the world's largest content website and has a global user base of around 30 million. Costs to the corporation grow as web traffic increases, and the BBC needs to recover these costs, he said.

Mr Highfield also told Digital Lifestyles about the potential of mobile technology, which until now has not been suitable for BBC content.

"It has been very difficult with a tiny screen and text to let the values of the BBC through. I think it changes once you start to get more broadband video onto mobile phones."

Mobile content would not be valuable to an audience already using, so new services would need to provide more tailored information. One option would be IP-based services, which would offer content based on the user's location.

"How could we use our network of Where I Live regional sites to give you news and information in radiating circles around your mobile phone?" said Mr Highfield.

"Once we start to move into that world I think the value of what we can do on mobile will increase exponentially."

The BBC is undergoing a series of reviews leading up to the 2006 Charter Renewal, the Royal Charter under which the BBC operates. The corporation recently announced its manifesto
'Building Public Value'
, which outlines its direction for the future.

"There are 42 major initiatives - 25 of which are new media," said Mr Highfield.

"So we have got to move from a position of being, to some extent, on the boundaries of the core BBC to being absolutely at its heart. That's going to be a big shift in everything."

Mr Highfield was speaking ahead of next week's International Broadcasters Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam where he will chair the 12 September session on 'New platforms, new content'. The conference runs from 9 to 13 September.

More news from dotJournalism:
BBC expands web TV
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See also:
Digital Lifestyles interview:
BBC Creative Archive:

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