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.

  • There was a time, only a year or so ago, when the BBC websites employed more people than Google.
    Sort of shows their advantage really.

  • slug

    People from outside the UK should have to pay.

  • I wonder considering that time brought andrew O’Sullivan in house ( I think that is his name.) I wonder will papers start bring bloggers into there sites to try to maximise there advertising revenue.

    Are even set a few of there employes at blogging to a greater extent then the guardians blog

  • Kathy C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    The british gov’t has to do alllll it can to prop up the BBC…after all…the bbc is under a Royal charter….

    did anyone ever see the royal charter that the queen and her gov’t gave the bbc. Rather interesting…and rather medevial.

    this is a real interesting part of the charter elizabeth gave to the bbc

    “Now know ye that we by our prerogative royal and of our especial grace, certain knowledge and mere motion do by this our charter for us, our heris and successors will ordain and declare as follows…”

    and can’t forget this one,

    “We believe it to be in the interest of OUR Peoples in Our united kingdom and elsewhere within the commonwealth that there should be an independent corporation which should continue to provide broadcasting services and should be permited….”

    I wonder, do you people living in the uk…like being refered to as queen elizabeth’s people…like she owns you?

  • I think slugger needs a facility for graphics

  • Comrade Stalin

    I seriously wonder how it is newsworthy to point out that the BBC is – gasp – funded by the state. I mean, no sh*t.

    Kathy, I don’t really care what the senile old cow says. Do you ?


    Living in France I don’t have the same access to all the online features that those living in the UK have.
    Mostly football matches and other live sporting events on Radio5.

    If anyone knows a way how I could trick the BBC into thinking my PC was in the UK, I’d love to hear it.


  • kensei

    So, the BBC’s problem is that it’s too good? Oh wait, if they were sgit then they are not serving the License Fee payers.

    As much as I have a few problems with BBC’s reporting of NI events, in general it’s very good. Ideologues want to destory it, and they shouldn’t be allowed.

  • Kathy_C

    Posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    comrade stalin, Actually I do care what the queen of england says. And I do care that the BBC is being seen by millions around the world who do NOT realize the bbc is promoting the british crown…and that it is not idependent.

    Several years ago where I live in the east coast of the US…a Public Broadcasting Station everynight showed the BBC news. Before the news was shown…the station stated it was the best and independent News in the world. I took offense to that statement…and notified the PBS station and after much discussion INCLUDING the fact the PBS station did not know BBC was a royal charter organziation….the station took out the begining that stated the BBC was the best and indepenedent news in the world. We still have the BBC news…and I watch it…however it is not promoted on my US public tv station as the best and most independent news program.

    posted by Kathy C

  • G-man

    Kathy C

    With the greatest respect … what exactly is your point ?

    I know bugger all about Royal Charters and what they mean in practice. Presumably the formal nature of the language used simply reflects some form of traditional wording which is largely academic. I guess if the British Government wanted to change the BBC they could via an Act of Parliament ?

    At a more general level, I am sure it ain’t perfect, but the BBC seems to be a pretty fine institution to me which seems to be hugely respected and admired around the globe. Looking forward to the second instalment of Planet Earth tonight.

    CS – is referring to someone as a “senile old cow” not against Board Rules ?

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes indeed it is.

  • fergie

    If you really think that Queen Elizabeth II takes direct involvement, or even more than a passing interest in what the BBC gets up to then I would suggest that there’s more than one senile mature bovine running around this earth.

    Surely the fact that the Charter states it must be an independent organisation kind of blows the pro-Royal bias idea does it not? But then who am I to ruin a great conspiracy theory. I personally would love Prince Philip to have more direct editorial responsibility for BBC output.

  • Kathy_C

    posted by Kathy C

    Hi all,

    G-man, The bbc and the crown are linked via the royal charter. the bbc in many ways is no different from a state sponsered station/organization which then would lead one to question the independence of such reporting. The queen with the charter issued it as the defender of the faith….what faith? Her church. I would think an organization who reports on the world issues of today which include various religious issues especially in the mideast and the large Muslim population in the uk…would give at least the appearance of independence if there were no royal charter. Could you just imagine if such a charter was in Russia…a charter by the President…to a media organization….?

    Fergie, It doesn’t matter if the queen or her consort play any role in the day to day runnning of the bbc. The fact remains….the queen…for her…her heirs and successors ordained the charter. I just find it laughable that the queen as defender of the faith gives a royal charter to the bbc. It states in the charter….” (the bbc) to provide sound and television programmes of information, education and entertainment for general reception in our united kingdom….” again I question how independent is a station/organization that by royral charter is told to provide news and education on the stations…who’s news and who’s information…of course those that support and prop up the monarchy.