BBC advertising poll

 by Martin Belam, 26 April 2006

So as someone with the International Edition of BBC News set as their default edition, and a wandering IP address outside the UK, I am eagerly awaiting my chance to participiate in the BBC's survey about whether the international news site should take advertising.

A quick rifle through the Have Your Say discussion of the issue shows a load of the usual diatribe-without-reading-the-details comment from people who see red at any combination of 'BBC' and 'advertising' in a one sentence.

The BBC's international news website should have a subscription facility. Why should non-licence payers have free access? Yet again the licence payer is ripped-off by the BBC.
Definitely, as long as they aren't in the form of popups or other invasive methods. Then you can abolish the ludicrous licence fee. At least then I don't have to pay for something I rarely ever watch.
Absolutely not! What on earth do we pay our licence fee for...This is also a very dubious form of consultation, hidden away on the website.

If I do get a chance to take part - I hope there is space to submit a comment. The thing that intrigues me is that having worked on the BBC's International Facing Homepage project where some of the adverts might end up, one of our primary use cases was Licence Fee payers who were accessing BBC services from abroad when travelling either on holiday or business. We wanted to ensure that they could navigate to their usual services quickly and easily, whether it be to catch up with The Archers, get the latest on their local football team, or check what was going to be on TV when they returned home the next day. To that end there were plenty of links back to UK-based services on the International Editions, and it was really easy to switch between them.

I'd be interested to hear how that relationship between the editions would work in a scenario where international users are meant to be seeing advertisements, and it would no longer make commercial sense to allow people to easily opt-out with one mouse click to take them to the UK edition.

Having been travelling, the only BBC channel I have seen for the last few months is the commercial BBC World. It does takes some getting used to having the BBC brand next to adverts. At least I see from the mocked-up designs with adverts that some thought has gone into where they will be placed - the BBC isn't just going to stick a couple of blocks of AdSense code into the page and hope for the best ;-)


If this were to go ahead, I would imagine that the advertisements will be displayed on both the UK and International editions, but will only get displayed to those who are outside the UK.

Mind you, I've not been involved in this in any way, so I could be wrong.

You describe the following as a 'diatribe-without-reading-the-details comment': "The BBC's international news website should have a subscription facility. Why should non-licence payers have free access?"

I personally pay 35p every month for the BBC's internet activities, according to and that doesn't include the cross-subsidising of content that repurposes from its other activities (like all of its radio stations online, plus the journalism on the news website) which makes the BBC website what it is.

BBC Worldwide Ltd, the commercial arm of the BBC, does not appear to contribute to the running of The FCO funding of BBC World Service may cover a small amount of content on but doesn't appear to cover any other content (bar the cross-subsidy mentioned earlier).

It's clear that UK licence-fee payers are footing the entire bill for the BBC's website: and similarly clear that this is a missed commercial opportunity for BBC Worldwide Ltd to monetise and therefore keep our licence-fee low. Indeed, if they monetise it correctly, it could mean a reduction of the licence fee.

Therefore, it's entirely reasonable to ask how long the BBC are going to be allowing non-licence fee payers to get all this content for no charge - either a direct charge via subscription (which is perfectly achievable, as the Washington Post or the NYT sites show), or an indirect charge via advertising. It's entirely within BBC Worldwide Ltd's remit to monetise this content: and, indeed, its responsibility to do so.

That user goes on to describe the situation of Johnny Foreigner peeking at the BBC site as "Yet again" a rip-off.

I think there is a case to be made for the commercial exploitation of overseas use of the website - but I think there is also a very strong case to be made for the BBC's standing as a news organisation of repute being beneficial to the UK as a whole, and part of that relies on the fact that it doesn't carry adverts unlike most commercial and domestic news networks. The CFO could save money by getting advertising into Wolrd Service broadcasts - but I don't necessarily think that would be "a good thing"

if the bbc can see profits in advertiseing on the web the should stop the TV LICENCE and split up the programs and put adverts on tv too! coz they either stick to the licence and have NO advertiseing or start advertiseing!

Just figure it out and let me watch the rugby from Canada

Keep up to date on my new blog