Is the BBC home free on the ‘net?

Interesting piece in the Economist, which argues that the BBC has an unfair advantage over the private press in the sense that it can sink investment in the net whilst others are bound by more short term fiscal constraints. For instance:

The BBC now has 525 sites. It spends £15m ($27m) a year on its news website and another £51m on others ranging from society and culture to science, nature and entertainment. But behind the websites are the vast newsgathering and programme-making resources, including over 5,000 journalists, funded by its annual £2.8 billion public subsidy.

For this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, for instance, the BBC’s gardening micro-site made it possible to zoom around each competing garden, watch an interview with the designer and click on “leaf hotspots” about individual plants. For this year’s election, the news website offered a wealth of easy-to-use statistical detail on constituencies, voting patterns and polls.

This week the BBC announced free downloads of several Beethoven symphonies performed by one of its five in-house orchestras. That particularly annoys newspapers, whose online sites sometimes offer free music downloads—but they have to pay the music industry for them.

However, without wishing to push the blogging thing further than is decent, if the Irish Blog Awards prove anything it is that the importance of the net is not based on expensive ‘wow factor’ technology, but relatively cheap tools that allow communities, on and off line, to engage with each other! If the private sector wishes play catch up on the Beeb, they just need to get into the water and starting talking to the rest of us as their online peers, whether in the blogosphere or elsewhere.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty