BBCi counters critics by plugging rival sites

The BBC has responded to claims that its internet presence is anti-competitive by publishing links to rival news providers next to its own stories.

In July the Government’s Graf report into BBC internet activities gave the corporation four months to respond to the charge that parts of its web empire went beyond the public service test.

Commercial internet content providers, including most national and local newspapers, have long argued that the BBC’s massive investment in websites and its cross-promotion of them across the network has stifled competition. According to the Newspaper Society the BBC has spent £340 million on web services since 1998.

The BBC says the new links to its competitors are “designed to offer access to even more detailed information and the chance to compare sources or check out a different perspective on the same story, with a longer-term view of improving media literacy”.

The BBC Newstracker system uses web search technology to identify content fromother news websites that relates to a particular BBC story.

The service provides bbc.co.uk/news with around 4,000 feeds, through Moreover Technologies, from English language news websites all over the world. It trawls through them looking for matches with stories appearing on the BBC’s main news website and then adds links Richard Deverell, BBC head of News Interactive, said: “BBC Newstracker addresses a clear user need. We know that audiences, particularly younger audiences, want and seek out a wider range of news sources. The new links will provide users with an opportunity to read our content in the context of what other news providers are saying.

We hope this emphasis on choice will increase media literacy amongst our users, improving the educational value of our service, as well as affirming bbc.co.uk’s reputation as a trusted guide to the web.”

Most stories on the BBC’s main news website have yet to have the new links added to them. Last week a story headlined “Kilroy warned to get back in line” had links to Guardian Unlimited and the websites of The Sun , The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and Sky News.

By Tuesday these had been removed. However, links to other sites could be found on a report about the death of actor Christopher Reeve.

By Dominic Ponsford

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