Top Gear UK - YouTube page

If a corporate content provider in the U.S. wants to upload videos to YouTube, all it essentially needs to do is find someone who knows how to upload videos to YouTube. Then: profit! In the UK, it's done differently – so much so that it sounds like everyone is confused. A regulatory body called The Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD) oversees on-demand services, including content posted online on branded aggregator sites like Virgin Media as well as open sites like YouTube. Content providers like the BBC, Nickelodeon and MTV that show on-demand content that is "television like," that are editorially responsible for the content, and that make it available to the public need to pay a yearly fee to ATVOD.

Here's where things get sticky: The BBC posted clips of its Top Gear and BBC Food programs on its YouTube channel, each clip less than ten minutes. According to The Telegraph, it didn't check with ATVOD about as to its obligations. The ATVOD checked out the clips and said 'these are television-like, so you owe us £2,900 for each channel (that's about $4,600 USD).' The BBC said that clips of less than ten minutes – a fraction of the length of the program on television – are short-form content being watched by people on the move, and thus not television-like.

The ATVOD responded to this by basically saying "bollocks." Since the BBC content in question satisfies the ATVOD's entire checklist for matters it regulates, the clips in question are "television-like" enough to justify the fee. The BBC joins a long line of media outlets including newspapers and magazines questioning ATVOD decisions, such as rulings that a company that makes a show is responsible for the editorial content of an on-demand show and needs to pay ATVOD as opposed to the broadcaster of the show paying ATVOD. It isn't just big guns that ATVOD goes after, either, its call for licensing fees having shut down more than one independent site offering content like amateur short films. The BBC is appealing, and it looks like clarification will have to come from the UK courts.