The BBC should have given their recipes to the world for safekeeping

Recipes being culled from the BBC is no trivial matter, as of course they are a huge and well used public resource.


However, the lesson we should be learning here is that public information should publicly licensed—under Creative Commons for instance—and effectively given to the world for safekeeping. Recipes are essentially reference material for our daily life, like a map. These 11,000 recipes deserve to be in the public domain—legally reusable by anyone.

It’s pretty clear that the BBC hasn’t really grappled with the idea of public reuse. Like many of our public institutions it has been slow to think about the duties it has to give resources and information back to the public. As a publisher, its instincts are probably that bit more conservative, in that it will by default wish to maintain control of what it produces.

The BBC is of course in a tricky position when it is relicensing content. I do not know the position with these recipes, how they were obtained, or how many are fully in control of the BBC. No doubt many are relicenced. But I do wonder if the question of reusable content ever came up: and I suspect if it did, it would not have been entertained as a prospect for very long. If you have inside information, please do leave a comment.

However, failing to grapple with these questions is a weakness. A modern public service broadcaster should be providing material not just free at the point of use, but also, where possible, free to reuse and republish. For sure, not the commercial end of its broadcasting, but in the case of recipes, there would surely be a simple case to do so. Printing off, republishing, sharing, emailing or teaching with BBC recipes would all benefit from using a Creative Commons licence.

It would also protect the BBC from the calls it is suffering today to have these recipes culled from their website. We could just take them elsewhere, perhaps to Wikimedia. (As it is, the factual matter could be stripped out, but textual descriptions would need to be rewritten—a big job, if achievable, but very inconvenient.)

Public sector broadcasters like the BBC should be a source of public domain material. If the BBC had decided to release this material for everyone, in a fully open manner, it would not be possible for the government to threaten to take it away from us today.

Comments (2)

  1. marcus petz:
    May 11, 2016 at 04:56 PM

    This is actually quite bad. As a food scientist that has investigated the source of culinary influence in European society for a forth coming publication on authenticity in food I can say that the BBC is a premier resource as regards food information. It is a fundamental aspect of our existence to eat well, hiding content behind paywalls or other such restrictions will actually increase food poverty and malnutrition, these are not Hell's Kitchen nor Ready Steady Cook entertainment shows of dubious practical culinary use, but a way that we can encourage others to eat well and we can learn to eat more healthily. I am sure that Gordon Ramsey, Delia Smith, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver and many other less renowned and influential chefs will condemn such a move. They already contribute recipes for free to the BBC Good Food Magazine which along with DVDs the BBC sells world wide and gets money for. Without more context I cannot comment more specifically, but fair use and research means that the content can be made available freely, the difficulty is not that aspect I would guess, but that the BBC is doing it and this counts as a state subsidy and is uncompetitive in the EU system. The same thing happened wen the BBC started to make free children's educational programmes and the content had to be removed and the channel shut down after a complaint from a provider in another EU country. Who owns the copyright is a Red Herring as all the content as far as I am aware is checked and put up in a way that does not infringe in a damaging way and is removed if found to breech copyrights pretty quickly (helps to have connections to the BBC library).

  2. marcus petz:
    May 21, 2016 at 12:52 PM

    It seems I was right about someone benefiting from selling food info. A Rupert Murdoch:

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