The BBC today welcomed the publication by the DCMS of Philip Graf's
independent review of the BBC's online service, bbc.co.uk.
The BBC's Board of Governors has made an interim
The publication of Graf's report is the culmination of the review process
begun in January 2003 and which has included both public and industry
As requested by the Secretary of State, the BBC Governors will make
a full response to Graf's recommendations in October 2004.
The report finds that bbc.co.uk has met the terms of its original
consent, granted by the DCMS in 1998, and has provided an online service
of high quality, creativity, innovation and impressive technical capability
which is valued by the public.
The report states that it is not possible to prove either way that
bbc.co.uk has had an adverse market impact and that it is also unlikely
that bbc.co.uk has eliminated effective competition across any large
areas of online content.
Graf's major recommendations include a 25% external spend quota and
a clearer remit for bbc.co.uk.
He also states that the BBC has a role in supporting Government objectives
to promote broadband take-up.
Ashley Highfield, BBC Director of New Media & Technology said: "I'm
pleased that Philip Graf is supportive of the current online service
and that his report recognises the public's wide admiration and support
"This is a solid foundation to build on, especially when taken
together with the BBC's vision, as outlined in our recent Building Public
Value document, to play a key role in the creation of a fully digital
"Graf's report contains important advice, commentary and criticisms
of our online service and we shall be considering these thoroughly over
the coming months."
Speaking at a press briefing today to give the BBC's initial response
to the report, Ashley Highfield stated his ambition to work more closely
with regional newspapers to deliver a more collaborative listings service;
his desire to increase spend with external companies; the publication
of a clearer external links policy; and the BBC's wish for a new remit
He said that bbc.co.uk will reprioritise services to focus on the
challenge of building a digital Britain, in line with Building Public
In advance of this refocusing, some of the principles of the Public
Value Test outlined in Building Public Value have been applied to bbc.co.uk
over recent months.
As a result, some sites have been charged with becoming more distinctive
(eg Films), some have recently been re-launched with slimmer areas of
content (eg Lifestyle), and some are to be closed altogether.
The five sites for closure are: Fantasy Football; the central What's
On events listings; the Surfing portal; the Games portal; and Pure Soap.
The regional listings services on the Where I Live sites will begin
an immediate dialogue with local newspapers to explore how the service
might be offered in closer collaboration with them.
Ideas for discussion include increasing the BBC's audio visual output
and linking direct to local newspaper sites.
Spend with external companies
Graf's report recommends that bbc.co.uk be subject to an external spend
quota of 25%.
In 2002/2003 bbc.co.uk doubled its spend with external companies from
6% to 13%.
In advance of reporting back to the DCMS formally, the BBC agrees that
more external spend would be beneficial to the wider internet industry
and, now that the internet market has grown and matured, will examine
what it can do to increase its current spend further.
Partnerships and links policy
The original remit for bbc.co.uk had no formal requirement for industry
partnerships, but the BBC acknowledges Graf's suggestions that it could
now have a better relationship with the external internet industry.
The recent Building Public Value document stressed the decision to
build more partnerships across all areas, and the BBC will publish a
partnership code in the autumn.
Alongside this will be a policy about consistent linking to external
websites from bbc.co.uk.
The Graf report recommends a clearer remit for the BBC's online activities.
The BBC will now work on a new online strategy which, subject to approval
from the Governors, will form the basis for a clear remit for bbc.co.uk.
The new remit will be made public in the autumn.
Philip Graf's report is available from the DCMS
Notes to Editors
January 2003 - Secretary of State requests the BBC submits a review
of its performance against its original consent granted in 1998.
July 2003 - BBC publishes its report of its performance, including
a study of market impact by KPMG.
August 2003 - Secretary of State appoints Philip Graf to be the independent
reviewer of the BBC's online service and opens a full public consultation.
November 2003 - public consultation closes.
All new BBC services are subject to independent review by the Government
The first such review was that of BBC News 24, lead by Richard Lambert
A review of the BBC's new digital services - four TV channels (BBC
THREE, BBC FOUR, The CBBC Channel and CBeebies) and five digital radio
networks (1Xtra, 6 Music, BBC 7, the Asian Network and Five Live Sports
Extra) - was launched by the DCMS in April 2004 and is currently ongoing.