BBC Expands Internet Presence After Review

By Aaron O. Patrick
The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

LONDON, April 25 -- After a yearlong review of its strategy, the British Broadcasting Corp., the world's biggest and best-known public broadcaster, said it plans to put more resources into its already-large Internet presence and no longer regards itself primarily as a producer of television and radio.

The London-based BBC, which was founded in 1922, said it plans to offer a service on its site similar in some respects to MySpace.com, a popular U.S. site used by young people to share information about themselves with friends.

Users will be able to create their own space on the BBC Web site where they can post Web logs -- or blogs -- home videos and links to BBC TV and radio shows, the BBC said.

The broadcaster also said it would launch a competition to redesign its Web page, create a feature in which members of the public will write a personal history of every day in the past 100 years and allow people to tailor the music they listen to over the Internet, creating the equivalent of personal radio stations. It didn't say when the changes would be completed, but it said work was already underway on the new Web site.

The efforts are another example of an old-style media company trying to keep up with a changing media landscape. BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said the broadcaster risked losing a generation of viewers. People today, he said, are more likely to want news and entertainment on demand.

"There's a big shock coming," Thompson said in a speech Tuesday night, a copy of which was posted on the BBC's Web site. "The foundations of traditional media will be swept away, taking us beyond broadcasting."

He added, "The BBC should no longer think of itself as a broadcaster of TV and radio and some new media on the side."

The BBC Web site is already one of the most popular in Britain. Last month, 6.1 million people there used it, according to Nielsen-NetRatings.

The next most popular news site was Yahoo Inc.'s Yahoo News, with 1.7 million users.

While Thompson emphasized the importance of the Internet in his speech, yesterday's proposals cover most parts of the BBC's operations. Other proposed changes include an increase in the BBC's output of new comedy shows and a reduction in the number of dramas.


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