Britain's BBC Promises More Website Changes to Aid Rivals

10 November 2004

State-funded UK broadcaster, the BBC, has pledged to further rethink online services to avoid stepping on the toes of commercial rivals.

The broadcaster has already shuttered several of its more commercially oriented websites and will divert £7 million ($13m, €10m) to spend on sites which better fulfil its public service remit.

Says Michael Grade, chairman of the BBC's governors: "We are publishing new, much more tightly drawn, objectives. They focus on how can be made more distinctive and deliver more public value, in this developing and growing market."

Among the sites it has agreed to close are soap operas, games and listings. It will modify sites on gardening and science and nature, while lifestyle sites will be more closely linked to specific TV shows.

A link with local newspaper listings is to be established to ramp up services to the public.

The BBC's conciliatory approach follows recommendations made in a government review of online services earlier this year, and ahead of the 2007 Royal Charter renewal (the structure through which it operates).

The BBC also reiterated its commitment to providing audio-visual content for high-speed broadband services, It also proposes linking with manufacturers and ISPs to develop a 'Freeband' broadband service similar to its no-fee Freeview digital TV offering.

  • Michael Grade also defended the governors' present dual role as both regulators and champions of the BBC, a function criticised and targeted for change by Tony Blair's administration following last year's Iraq dossier scandal [WAMN: 4-Nov-2004].

    Speaking at a convention of leading British industrialists, Grade said the way forward was not to set up an independent regulator but to "make the board more clearly independent of [BBC] management".

    He argues an independent regulator would be expensive and would not have the best interests of British licence-payers' money at heart.

    He adds: "External regulators can act - but only ever after the event. The BBC governors, guided by the public interest, can act in advance. We can prevent where regulators can only punish. We can improve where regulators can only watch and hope."

    Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff