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'Auntie Beeb' bets on global web empire

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal's print edition reported that the BBC is betting on the Web to create a global empire. Given the BBC's institutionalized leftism, which has been well documented, this is not good news. However, the BBC's plan sounds interesting. (Note: The WSJ is owned by News Corp. which also owns a big stake in one of the BBC's main competitors, British Sky Broadcasting.)

According to reporter Aaron O. Patrick, the BBC has looked into the future and decided to throw "almost its entire schedule online. To do that, the broadcaster has bet big on iPlayer, a free computer program offered via the BBC's Web site and Apple Inc.'s iPhone, which allows anyone in the United Kingdom to download and watch BBC shows that have appeared in the past week. . .About 17 million BBC shows were downloaded in the seven weeks after iPlayer's launch, compared with one million videos sold in the first three weeks after TV shows were put on Apple's iTunes store." The iPlayer will be launched in the US this year.

This strikes some competitors as unfair since the BBC, funded by every British TV owner's licensing fee, can afford to be blasé about advertising. Whether the European Union will consider that the BBC has an unfair competitive advantage is doubtful, however. It, too, has been winning consistently laudatory news coverage for years, and recently handed Auntie Beeb a large loan.

BBC director general Mark Thompson evidences no concern about BBC content. In the WSJ he is quoted as saying, "Everything should be digital. That was maybe the only really big idea I was going to bring into the place."

To achieve technological mastery, the BBC will have to eliminate 2,500 of the BBC's 23,000 staff, half from the news and television divisions. Will this make it more or less likely that BBC reporters weep at the death of terrorists? We will have to wait and see.

Eventually the BBC aims to reach its 233 million global news viewers digitally.