BBC director general Mark Thompson has announced proposals allowing viewers to permanently download copies of their favourite shows from the archives.
Mr Thompson said the plan – named Project Barcelona – would enable the purchase of programmes to own for a “relatively modest” fee.
He added that the digital archive would stay open for good, and shows would remain available to licence fee payers.
The plans will be put before the BBC Trust later this year.
Mr Thompson, who was speaking at the Royal Television Society (RTS) in London, said that the UK’s producers would also need to give their support to the project.
He described the scheme as the “digital equivalent” of people buying a DVD of their favourite programme for a permanent collection. Many of the programmes would not have previously been available to own.
The BBC’s boss also said that the project would provide a source of income to support independent programme production in the UK, and denied it was a “second licence fee by stealth”.
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