Between the Lines: BBC beefs up web presence

Observers of the BBC's creeping commercialism will be familiar with the "thin end of the wedge" scenario (page 4). For example, BBC Breakfast's local news slot plugs its sister radio station while rival commercial radio stations are forced to look on toothlessly.

Now Auntie is plotting a new ad-funded, globally targeted website. The BBC can argue that its World TV service has already set the precedent by taking ads. But claiming a slice of internet revenues takes the issue to a whole new level.

The Corporation claims BBC.com won't be rampantly commercial: no banners or pop-ups. But that's not where the big-bucks brand-building web advertising is at. So small comfort there for rivals.

As MPs prepare to consider the BBC's plans, the ad industry should add its weight to the debate. While some advertisers might welcome access to BBC content, this could indeed prove to be the thin end of a wedge that results in reduced competition. Neither advertisers, nor their agencies, nor media owners can afford to cede an inch on this point.

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