The BBC Trust has approved proposals to carry advertising on bbc.com, a commercial version of the BBC web site for users outside the United Kingdom. BBC Worldwide plans to grow online revenues to 10% of its income. The approval was published on the day the BBC announced plans to close 2,500 posts and reduce significantly the number of journalists it employs by consolidating resources across television, radio and online.
BBC Worldwide will be responsible for the development of bbc.com, in conjunction with the BBC global news division, which will retain editorial control of the news section. BBC Worldwide plans to invest in other areas that cover key genres such as natural history and the BBC programme archive.
The site currently attracts more than 40 million unique users per month from outside the UK, mainly accessing the news pages.
Filtering based on internet addresses will be used to direct international users to the site carrying advertising. The mechanism for this was put in place some years ago. It uses a database provided by Quova which claims to locate visitors from outside the UK with more than 99.96% accuracy.
Advertising will initially be introduced on selected popular pages and will be rolled across more of the site over time.
BBC Worldwide will pay the BBC for the rights and services it uses, with BBC News as the main recipient.
BBC World, the global news channel, will receive a proportion of the revenues in return for providing on-air cross promotion and advertising sales.
The BBC World television channel has carried advertising from its launch in 1991. Other BBC branded channels operated by BBC Worldwide, such as BBC America, also carry adverts.
The BBC says that the introduction of advertising on bbc.com will not affect the quality or integrity of the web site. It says “a system of robust editorial safeguards” will ensure the reputation of the BBC is not damaged and that journalistic and editorial values are upheld.
“Introducing advertising on international traffic to news pages is a natural development in the growth of the BBC’s commercial news services,” said Richard Sambrook, the director of BBC Global News. “It will enable us to deliver a stronger service for the benefit of our audiences throughout the world.”
The financial support for the BBC’s international facing site that was previously provided via grant in aid by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will now be provided by BBC Worldwide, allowing the government money to be spent on the BBC World Service which will continue to provide 32 international language sites without advertising.
The news prompted mixed reactions in comments published on the BBC web site, but many readers appeared to accept the rationale for adding advertising to the international version of the service.