Media Rivals Twitchy Over BBC's Web Ad Plans

20 February 2007

LONDON: A powerful alliance of UK media companies with extensive online interests has demanded that the BBC Trust - a recently created independent body that regulates the broadcaster's activities - should veto the corporation's plans to carry advertising on its non-UK websites.

Fearful that the BBC's online intentions would erode ad revenues on its members' sites, the British Internet Publishers Alliance argues that the carrying of advertisements by BBC sites would undermine the broadcaster's "worldwide reputation for integrity and impartiality".

BIPA, whose membership includes such UK media titans as NewsCorp-owned News International, Trinity Mirror and the Guardian Media Group, refutes the BBC argument that it needs advertising revenue to underwrite sites primarily viewed outside the UK.

"While such revenues might seem superficially attractive as a means of augmenting the licence fee, the collateral damage to the private sector would greatly exceed the benefit," states the trade body.

The BBC intends that prime locations, such as the home page of the BBC News website, would carry a number of ads. The income would replace BBC World Service grant-in-aid payments and would, in turn, be reinvested in radio and TV programming.

Any surplus advertising revenue would accrue to meet government-imposed targets for generating commercial income.

According to the broadcaster, geo-IP technology will ensure that only non-UK users of any BBC site will see the ads. BIPA, however, argues that gizmos such as geo-IP are not wholly reliable.

The BBC Trust is due to meet next week to discuss the plans.

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff