The BBC's commercial conundrum

We're nearing the end of a turbulent week for the UK's final bastion of public service broadcasting, as the corporation unveiled plans for the digital age and also began testing the advert-based waters for its international news site.

The BBC's roadmap for the future is pointed firmly in the direction of content-on-demand and new online features. The launch of a "Creative Future teen brand" is planned in order to appeal to the younger "MP3 generation" which will include online hotspots for sport and music.

Developments have left Rupert Murdoch's commercial rivals Sky claiming the proposal to be an immitation of the media-baron's recently aquired MySpace. The BBC's plans will of course be paid for using the licence fee, a charge to the British public to receive services from the corporation - effectively public money.

Executive director of News International (controller of Sky television) James MacManus quarrelled: "The government put no independent regulator in place to stop the BBC using its digital roll-out to roll over a whole host of companies seeking to grow their own digital future."

Murdoch's spokesman asked: "Why should public money be used to create competition to a successful commercial venture such as MySpace?"

ITV demanded that any changes made to the BBC's services endure a full public value test, clearly cautious of its publicly-funded rival.

There were no surprises when News International's The Times and The Sun rallied to fight for Murdoch's cause, as is often the case when his network faces an obstacle such as this.

As well as the new proposals the BBC's controversial plans to re-launch the international flavour of its much-respected news website came a little closer to reality on Tuesday, as the poll of 100,000 people living outside the UK began.

The new advert-driven prototype would not be seen by those living in the UK, though the validity of providing adverts is still in question as the BBC already receives funding from the Foreign Office to help with international traffic costs.

A truly non-commercial service is what often gives the BBC the edge over competitors. Often proud to be "your BBC", the corporation knows sourcing funding never interferes with content. Plans to include online advertising on one of the BBC's most popular resources (even to international crowds) is such an anti-BBC move that outcry is predictable. Luckily there will be a strict approval process, to ensure the correct decision is made at the end of the day.

View: BBC Advertising Policy
View: Future of the BBC

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