Film And now a letter to the BBC ...
To: The BBC
From: Me
"Now that Channel 4 have instituted a policy of showing films in their correct aspect ratio if a print is available -- particularly in letterbox -- it seems a shame that the BBC as a public service broadcaster hasn't followed suit. Are there plans to change the BBC's overall policy on this so that we can see all films in the form that the director intended and not 'cropped' down to 16:9 as is so often the case."

From: The BBC
To: Me
"Thank you for your e-mail.

"I appreciate you would like to view all films broadcast on the BBC in their original aspect ratio. As a public service broadcaster the BBC attempts to transmit films with an aspect ratio that ensures the majority of viewers are able to enjoy the programming whether viewing on a 4:3 or widescreen television. To keep its costs low and to provide the majority of the public with a suitable viewing picture this may on occasion result in some films being broadcast in the 4:3 aspect ratio as this is the source currently available to the Corporation.

"To purchase films in their widescreen format will require film rights to be negotiated as new (even if we currently hold a 4:3 copy of the film) and this will result in increased costs. As you may be aware the BBC has undertaken a commitment to reduce its running costs to secure its future in the digital age.

"There is every chance that once broadcasting rights to individual films expires, the BBC will look to the possibility of purchasing a widescreen format if available.

"To this end please be assured your comments have been registered on our Reception Advice log which is made available to senior BBC management. We do welcome feedback about the technical quality of our programming output and thank you again for taking the time to send us your views."
Well that answers that question, the kind of question only a Sight & Sound reading cineaste can get bothered about, I know. You've got to love that there's a department at the BBC whose job it is to answer these questions, no matter how nerdy.

I am bit confused about how the licensing of films for television works now though. What this implies is that the BBC don't just purchase the ability to show a film but also a copy of that film and then can't get a different copy to broadcast until the licensing deal is up and they have to renegotiate. Is that how it works throughout the industry? FilmFour once presented a cropped version of 'The Fifth Element' and then a 2.35:1 copy only a week or too later. I've Ask'd Metafilter to see if anyone there knows, but do you have any ideas?

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