Here’s a thought – As the BBC website is available to the world and therefore can be read by non-licence fee payers, should it be funded by the license fee?
This is a pretty contentious point. With the validity of the licence fee as a whole already a hot issue, the idea of Jonny foreigner getting a service for free because we are already paying for it is likely to make some blow a gasket. Furthermore, the fact that new revelations have shown that the BBC overspent £36m on its website in the year to March 2008 certainly doesn’t make the sell any easier.
But should licence fee payers be unhappy? Or should we see the BBC website as an asset for putting UK plc in the global shop window and therefore great value for our money whatever the cost?
In reality the funding situation is not as black and white as suggested above. In fact, foreign IP addresses that bring up bbc.co.uk actually see adverts on the pages. This is because the BBC is allowed to generate revenue from foreign use of its website. So we don’t pay alone for overseas users’ benefit.
However, to be honest I wouldn’t mind if we did because the value to us in the UK is worth the expense.
First and foremost this is because the BBC website, and for that matter the BBC, is a great ambassador for the UK as a whole. Having the BBC website broadbanded into foreign homes spreads the word about UK productivity at its best. The BBC is still revered around the world as the best broadcasting network and it is therefore a shining beacon reminding the world of the fact that some things are still done best in the UK. The reflected glory can benefit us all.
Secondly, the BBC website provides a conduit to other companies in the UK. That is to say it can effectively operate as an indirect advertising medium for UK business. Consider a news story about a UK firm’s great new invention or a feature article on why the UK is becoming a hub of web hosting. Such articles that indirectly promote UK business will be read by overseas users. So the BBC can help to connect UK business to a wider customer base.
Finally, and most directly for our interests at UKFast , the spanking new BBC website shows that the UK internet industry is a world leader. It demonstrates that we as an industry are amongst the very best at designing, building, functioning, marketing and hosting the world’s fastest growing business and information medium.
But what about the overspend? Well at a total price of £110m the BBC website still only costs £5 per licence fee household and when you consider that Eastenders costs about £250,000 per episode, the BBC could easily afford its website if it cancelled the limp London soap!
So, I think to spend what is still a small portion of our licence fees on the BBC’s online presence is money very well spent.