The BBC is to launch a premium download video service to take on the likes of Apple's ITunes.

The move - part of an initiative called Project Barcelona - has long been rumoured but has now been officially confirmed by BBC director-general Mark Thompson.

Speaking at an event for the Royal Television Society, the Beeb bossman said: "For decades the British public has understood the distinction between watching Dad's Army on BBC1 and then going out to buy a permanent copy of it. Barcelona is the digital equivalent of doing the second."

The idea is that just minutes after a show ends on Auntie's network, it will be available to download and keep digitally. So, a different proposition from the BBC's iPlayer, which allows for streaming and downloading for a limited time only.

"This is not a second licence-fee by stealth or any reduction in the current public service offering from the BBC," said Thompson. "It's the exact analogy of going into a high-street shop to buy a DVD or, before that, a VHS cassette."

The "digital ownership" of the programmes would be available permanently for "a modest fee", he said

That fee is expected to be around £1.89 per programme. In comparison, Top Gear on iTunes would cost you £2.49 , Benidorm £1.89 and Only Fools and Horses £1.49. So we'd expect some flexibility around the £1.89 price, especially with Thompson promising "to load more and more of our archive into the window" over time.

No set date for the service as of yet. We'll keep you posted.

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