The BBC's long-awaited on-demand TV service has been given a launch date – July 27th.

The iPlayer allows you to download programmes for free and watch them as many times as you like within a time limit of 30 days.

The new service is a significant move for the Beeb, and represents, according to Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, 'a new era when viewers will have the freedom to watch programmes from the BBC's linear TV channels when they want.'

'It's a revolutionary service which offers audiences more value,' she continued. 'From now on, they never have to miss out on their favourite programmes - or those that they didn't previously have the opportunity to try.'

However, controversy about the neww service has already begun. The Open Source Consortium (OSC), a body that promotes the use of open source software, has written to industry watchdog Ofcom, and to the BBC Trust, questioning the BBC's decision to tie the service to Microsoft's Windows Media Player.

OSC Chief Executive Iain Roberts said: "It is very disturbing that the BBC should be using licence payers' money to affect the operating system market in this way.

"Imagine if the BBC were to launch new digital channels, but only make them available on a certain make of television - there would be uproar," Roberts said.

The BBC insists it is aiming to make the iPlayer available on as many platforms as possible.

Ashley Highfield of the BBC commented, "We are committed to making it as easy as possible to use BBC iPlayer. Developing a version for Apple Macs and Microsoft Vista is absolutely on our critical path."

The BBC is also working with Virgin Media - who recently lost out on a raft of Sky channels after a high-profile row with Rupert Murdoch's corporation - to launch the service on television via cable.

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