BBC Websites Under Fire in Government Review

28 November 2003

A coalition of British commercial media groups has told the government it must clamp down on the BBC's online operations.

The British Internet Publishers' Alliance -- a lobby group comprising publishers such as News International, Guardian Media Group and Telegraph Group -- has outlined twelve changes it wants the government to impose on the publicly owned broadcaster.

Commercial operators are angry at the scale of the BBC's online activity, which is funded by the public through the licence fee levied on all TV households. They believe the broadcaster is unfairly using this cash to stray beyond its public service remit and compete with the private sector.

In particular, BIPA argues the BBC has broken its promise to spend just £21 million ($36m; €30m) a year on internet activity, with expenditure of "at least £75m per year plus £25m in overheads." The lobby group believes the broadcaster has ignored an undertaking to focus on educational websites and has "completely undermined" commercial firms' ability to compete in the online market.

The complaints were made as part of a government review of the BBC's internet activity. This inquest is headed by Philip Graf, former ceo of newspaper giant Trinity Mirror.

BIPA's twelve suggestions include forcing the BBC to stick to public service websites and bringing its online operations under the scrutiny of communications watchdog Ofcom. It also wants the BBC to list internet operations separately in its annual accounts.

"BIPA has exposed a catalogue of broken promises by the BBC," declared the body's head Hugo Drayton, "and has provided the Graf review with detailed evidence to show how far the BBC has strayed from its own public service remit, and how it has damaged the delivery of consumer choice."

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff