The BBC Sets Its Sights On Google, AOL

    May 31, 2006

The blokes at the BBC want to show the world what they’re made of. The corporation’s director general has set his sights not only on Google – a tough opponent by any standards – but on AOL, as well. As part of this plan, the BBC would expand further into global markets.

If Mark Thompson, the director general, follows through on his words, this would be a true heavyweight battle. Google ranks as the largest Internet search company in the world. AOL was formerly the most successful proprietary online service. And the British Broadcasting Corporation (sometimes called the Beeb) is the world’s largest broadcasting corporation. “The BBC is the only European brand that could take on Google and AOL,” Thompson said in an interview with the Financial Times.

Yet Thompson’s comments came only a week after the British Conservative party called for the BBC to be bound to stringent rules as a way of preventing the corporation from crushing its Internet rivals. George Osborne, Shadow chancellor, accused the BBC of abusing the power its licensing fee provides. “I am concerned that in too many of its non-core activities, particularly on the Internet, it is stifling the growth of innovative new companies,” Osborne said.

Thompson defended the fee, citing requested changes in the BBC’s lineup. “If you want the BBC to replace many hours of low-cost factual programmes on BBC1 with landmark specialist factual with drama and comedy, it comes at a price.” In the director general’s call for the BBC to continue its expansion, he also requested a 2.3 percent increase (over inflation) in the license fee for the next ten years of its Royal Charter.

The BBC currently pulls down a 2.9 billion pound annual subsidy (about $5.4 billion). Is that enough to take on Google and AOL? Only time will tell, but it should be a heck of a fight.

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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.