BBC Trust Boosts Web Budget, Cuts TV and Film Money

BBC sites are responsible for <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7954941.stm">40 percent of the visits to iPlayer</a>, according to Hitwise.The BBC Trust, which watches over the broadcaster’s budget on behalf of UK citizens who pay the license fee that funds operations, has agreed to a £30.7 million ($44.3 million) budget increase for the BBC’s web ventures. That brings the total to more than £145 million a year for the next three years.

Meanwhile, traffic to online video web sites has risen 40.7 percent in the UK over the last 12 months, with YouTube garnering 62.9 percent of those visits, according to the Beeb. Further, traffic to the BBC’s iPlayer is up 152.1 percent, and is second to YouTube among video sites with an 11.2 percent share. Hopefully the budget increase will be enough to cover the growing bandwidth bill.

The extra money comes at a time when the BBC is otherwise scaling back, and it comes with some conditions.

The budget increase wasn’t as much as BBC management had asked for, £52.7 million. And it doesn’t quite cover the£36 million bbc.co.uk went over budget by last year. Though the web spending increase does come even as £1.9 billion was cut from the entire budget over the next three years.

Trust chairman Michael Lyons wrote in a letter to General Director Mark Thompson that BBC Online need to focus on more news, children’s and knowledge programming, and that search and navigation of the sites needed to be improved. And management was mandated to keep a closer eye on how the investment in Internet project affects the competitive landscape.

For instance, the trust felt not enough was being done to send users to external web sites. Other broadcasters have complained that the BBC’s content online often crossed over with offerings from commercial services.

It’s great to hear the web division is getting a boost, but half the budget increase wouldn’t be enough to cover talk show host Jonathan Ross’s current three-year contract. And I, for one, am ready to drown some tea if it means we could tune into the iPlayer here in the colonies, which would require a change in the service license.

The network’s commercial division, BBC Worldwide, could perhaps generate more revenue for the web division by selling ads against clips it makes available on YouTube (or through an international iPlayer). After all, Ricky Gervais is cashing in on his podcast, why shouldn’t the Beeb cash in on his funny YouTube clips?

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