The BBC is considering charging “micropayments” for online viewing of its extensive archive.

Eighty years of BBC content, amounting to a million hours of video and audio, is locked away on magnetic tape and film which is currently being transferred to digital formats.

As part of its “delivering quality first” cost-saving drive, the BBC has pledged to put its back catalogue online by ”a mix of public and commercial means”.

Micropayments are among several ideas to recoup the substantial costs of digitisation, a spokesperson confirmed.

“Any such ideas would need to be developed in conjunction with the industry and with rights holders and they would certainly not lead to a two-tier licence fee,” the corporation said.

The BBC’s popular iPlayer online video service is free but the broadcaster also gains revenue from licence fee-funded programming through sales of DVDs and online services such as Apple iTunes, Lovefilm and Netflix, via its Worldwide commercial arm.

ITV, the BBC’s largest free-to-air rival, is preparing to launch its own micropayments scheme. The commercial broadcaster, which is seeking to reduce its reliance on advertising revenues by charging for more content, plans to use the PayWizard system from MGt Group.

It will be trialling the system “behind closed doors” before a public launch in the coming months.

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