However these articles (which appear on a
bbc.com domain, not
bbc.co.uk) are blocked from within the UK. Instead, I am presented with a ‘help’ page that tells me the following:
BBC Future (international version)
We’re sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee. It is run commercially by BBC Worldwide, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BBC, the profits made from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes. You can find out more about BBC Worldwide and its digital activities at www.bbcworldwide.com.
Most of the Web isn’t funded by a licence fee, but I am still able to see it.
However, this explanation doesn’t really explain why I am being denied the content. Most of the Web isn’t funded by a licence fee, but I am still able to see it. I understand that BBC Worldwide is a for-profit division of the BBC, but these pages are not behind a paywall if you are visiting the site internationally – they are ad supported. Denying the content to residents of the UK seems perverse.
Of course, using proxy software* it is possible to see the site:
‘Dear Points of View, I wish to complain…’
I actually did complain to the BBC last September about this (using almost exactly the same wording as above) and received the following reply:
We understand you’re unhappy at not being able to access the BBC Future site from the UK.
This site isn’t accessible from the UK as it’s part of our international service and isn’t funded by the licence fee. We’re very sorry you’re unhappy about this but hope you can enjoy out other online content.
I understand the strength of your comments and I’d like to assure you that I’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.
The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.
So not really a satisfying answer. More of a rewording of my complaint and a reiteration what I already knew actually.
Tonight I did a bit of searching to see if anyone else had been trying to solve this puzzle, and I found a post by Thomas Baekdal from March 2012 — BBC Future is Blocking…Itself — who theorised that some kind of government legislation was probably to blame. He recieved a different reply from the BBC:
[…] making the content available to UK audiences is not as simple as removing the ads. bbc.com/Future is a commercial website produced by BBC Worldwide. Under the BBC’s fair trading rules, commercial websites are not allowed to receive unfair promotion from the BBC’s public services. This prevents us from being able to provide Future on bbc.co.uk
So that’s not exactly a more satisfying answer, but at least it qualifies as an answer. I wish they’d write something more accurate on their help page.
After approving a fresh comment on this post today, I decided to try and visit BBC Future again, and this time was able to! The site has no advertising (that I noticed) and the following disclaimer right below the header:
This website is made by BBC Worldwide. BBC Worldwide is a commercial company that is owned by the BBC (and just the BBC.) No money from the licence fee was used to create this website. Instead this website is supported by advertising outside the UK. The profits we make from it go back to BBC programme-makers to help fund great new BBC programmes.
* I use TunnelBear for this kind of thing.