Magazine article Information Today

U.k

Magazine article Information Today

U.k

Article excerpt

While many commercial content companies have struggled to make a success of the Web, the BBC has quietly established an enviable reputation as a major online news source. Today, BBC Online news (BBCi) is one of the most frequently visited sites on the Web.

In recognition of this, audience management and analysis company Nielsen// NetRatings named BBCi "British site of the year" for 2002. Last February, it commended the site again, reporting that traffic had increased dramatically over the past year. And today, BBCi ranks fifth in NetRatings' UK Top 10 Properties, just behind the major search engines.

But the BBC's online success has proved to be a mixed blessing. As a publicly funded organization (all U.K. citizens who own televisions pay a compulsory license fee), the BBC faces growing accusations that its online presence is damaging the ability of commercial providers to gain users and is therefore adversely affecting their ability to generate revenue.

The BBC, however, disputes this. Speaking to online news service Silicom.com in August, Ashley Highfield, the BBC's director of new media and technology, argued that since 65 percent of those visiting BBCi subsequently move on to other sites, "we're actually driving e-commerce." He added that the $120 million spent by the BBC on its Web arm accounted for just 3 percent of license-fee payers' money and represented "very good value."

Nevertheless, in response to the complaints, the U.K. government has announced that it will review BBCi. While this will form part of a wider review of the BBC's overall charter (which is due to be re-examined in 2006), the government has made it clear that a key aim is to assess the commercial impact that BBCi has had on the market. …

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