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July 22, 1998

BBC COY OVER PORTAL AMBITIONS

By CBR Staff Writer

BBC Online – reputed to be Europe’s most popular web site with 18 million hits a month – is tight-lipped about reports that it has ambitions to become a portal site that could rival Yahoo! and Excite. BBC Online have never said we aim to be a portal, said an official who was careful not to rule out the possibility either. Speculation has grown as the rapidly expanding site – which cost $36m to set up last year – is currently undergoing internal convulsions which could see it emerge in a radically different form. The present controller Edward Briffa is currently considering alternative senior managerial posts within the BBC, the official explained. While there have been reports of low morale and confusion about policy, the BBC put an optimistic spin on developments. It claimed it was reviewing its structures to deliver even better value for the license fee payer in a service considered by the Corporation to be the third broadcast medium after radio and television. This will, inevitably, bring it into conflict with competing web sites because the BBC’s $3.6bn annual revenues come from a compulsory license fee imposed on consumers of its services, and it does not face the kind of the commercial pressures and budget restraints they have to endure.

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