BBC News hits Web

BBC News today kicked off the first real initiative to make itself as big on the Internet as it is on television and radio.

BBC News is a free access, rolling service that the BBC claims pulls in a worldwide resource of over 2,000 journalists, 250 correspondents and 50 bureaux. The service will cover current affairs, science and technology, business and sport, as well as a movie of the Nine O'Clock News. There will also be links to BBC news in Cantonese, Radio 5 Live and the World Service, as well as a space for interactive discussion. In line with BBC guidelines, the site will be entirely dedicated to public service and carry no advertising or endorsements. However, there will be cross-promotions with BBC television and radio programmes.

A team of over 40 journalists and Web experts will staff BBC Online will post the content and will produce a news bulletin that is updated every five minutes and contains audio and video clips

Chris Westcott, commissioning editor for multimedia at the BBC, admitted that the Corporation was a latecomer to the online news party compared to CNN, MSNBC and some other rivals.

"We have had a number of small news sites that have been up in the last couple of years for special events such as budgets, the general election and the death of Diana, but we have come later to the game," Westcott said.

"It's been a learning time but what we have seen is a vast amount of demand for high-quality news. On our site, every news story is a BBC story. We're looking at news aggregation models and we will be a channel on Microsoft's Active Desktop and perhaps Netscape [Navigator], but there is such equity in the BBC name anyway... it's an incredibly well-known brand."

Westcott said that the Net provided the BBC with a different proposition to broadcast. "Traditional broadcast is a one-way transmission. With the Net we want to have real discussion that shapes the news coverage.

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