Web publishers attack BBC Online

Web publishers attack BBC Online

The Telegraph's Hugo Drayton

BBC Online came under sustained attack from publishers and media experts for damaging the commercial online advertising market at a policy forum yesterday, witnessed by the man who will oversee a wide-ranging review of its services.

 

At the Westminster eForum, Hugo Drayton, managing director of the Telegraph Group, the former long-serving head of its interactive activities and the current head of the British Internet Publishers' Alliance, called for the BBC get out of areas which had never been formally part of its remit when BBC Online was instituted.

 

He said it's move into fantasy football, celebrity gossip and the creation of a global search engine had contributed to the BBC's removal of a notional £20m worth of advertising from the market.

 

Drayton said the BBC now has a URL in every category.

 

"The issue is not the success of BBC Online it's about whether their services are relevant, necessary or appropriate," said Drayton.

 

Dr Ian Kearns, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research said it was "unacceptable" for BBC services to "spring up" without any regulation.

 

Chris Goodall, a principal with Enders Analysis, said the BBC's submission to the DCMS on the impact of its online activity on the commercial market had underestimated it impact on advertising revenues by three to five times and that the BBCi would generate only £20m if it took advertising, despite costing £73m to produce.

 

Ashley Highfield, the director of BBC new media and technology, said "It's never been my intention to distort the market. "

 

He claimed the BBC links to 250,000 external web sites. 

 

"We have absolutely met the DCMS concerns as laid out in 1998.  But we do admit that it was couched during early days of dotcom revolution in broad terms."

 

A government review into the BBC's online activities by the former Trinity Mirror chief executive, Philip Graf, has already begun and is due to report in the spring.

 

Graf said at the forum that his mission was to ensure transparency about the workings of BBC Online and to define the "difference between public service broadcasting and public service interactive."

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