Would the Tories close the BBC website?

 by Martin Belam, 29 August 2003

Mediaguardian reported on Tuesday that "Tories would close BBC website", quoting culture spokesman John Whittingdale. According to this article - Tory questions BBC digital role - from the BBC itself, he seems to feel perhaps the emphasis of that headline was wrong when you look at what he actually said:

In response to earlier reports, Mr Whittingdale insisted he was "not saying the BBC website should be closed down, but needs to be examined against criteria in exactly the same way as every other part of the BBC" [BBC News - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3186071.stm]

And returning to the original Guardian article the quotes attributed to Whittingdale are actually:

"I am not persuaded that there is necessarily a case for a public service website. I'm not persuaded that anything on the BBC site could not be provided elsewhere" [MediaGuardian - http://media.guardian.co.uk/newmedia/story/0,7496,1029616,00.htm]

Which isn't quite the same as suggesting it would be shut down without question.

But rather like Tom Coates, I don't feel I can really comment on this myself, but a lot of people have been doing the commenting for me on Plasticbag and Metafilter, saying some heart-warming things, and also some intelligently critical ones, about the BBC's web output.

I suspect that we will see a lot more of this kind of story floating around whilst the DCMS Review of the BBC's online services is being carried out.

The government is currently accepting emails about the BBC Online services, and you can mail the DCMS at bbconlinereview@culture.gsi.gov.uk. November 17th is the closing date for email. they have also made available the BBC's Online review report, but unfortunately only in the full 4.9mb version. The BBC Information site has links through to some smaller text only versions of the BBC submission which are a bit more user-friendly on the old 56k modem.


There is an excellent article by Kieren McCarthy on the website of "The Register" on this issue.

For those searching in the archives of "The Register" for the article in my previous post, the precise title is "BBC news site facing extinction?", and it was posted on 28/8/03.

The Register article in question is at: http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/32544.html

It does make some good points, although one thing I would have to take it to task on is trotting out the statistic "The BBC now runs 25,000 different websites".

It is a figure that The Guardian loves to quote as well. I'd still love to know where they get it - it is hopelessly over-inflated. For a start that would mean there was virtually a one-to-one ratio between staff at the BBC as a whole and the number of websites it runs.

I was involved in some work this year that involved a content audit of the BBC's top level domain sites, e.g. www.bbc.co.uk/something, and the equivalent on news.bbc.co.uk. It found 333 BBC content sites with top level address on the www servers, and around 60 or so on the news.bbc.co.uk servers. Which, even allowing for BBC Worldwide's activities, is well short of the 25,000 figure that used to be bandied around.

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