An official review of the BBC's online services will be conducted by former Trinity Mirror chief executive Philip
Graf, the government has announced.
BBCi's websites contain more than two million pages
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell got the review under way in earnest with the announcement at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
The review will weigh up whether the BBC has stuck to its original plans - approved by the government in 1998 - and what impact it has had on the commercial sector.
The BBC's websites contain more than two million pages and reach up to 43% of the UK population each month, according to the corporation's latest annual report.
BBCi is "Europe's most widely visited content site" and costs £72m to run in 2002, the report said.
The review, which begins with a public consultation, will also form part of the charter renewal process that will reach its climax in 2006.
Ms Jowell told broadcasting experts at the Edinburgh Television Festival: "We
want to look at quality and value for money, how the online services fit with
the BBC's public service remit, the services' impact on competition and on the
general development of the BBC's online services."
Philip Graf, who resigned from Trinity Mirror in September 2002,
will submit a full report to Ms Jowell.
He said: "The BBC holds a unique place in our nation's cultural life and its website
has been a significant part of the internet revolution that has irrevocably
altered communications in recent years.
"This is why I relish the opportunity to
conduct this very important review. I can assure all concerned that it will be
both open-minded and vigorous."
A BBC spokesman said: "We believe that we have worked within the terms of the original online consent and that we have brought benefits to the industry."
In 2006, the government will decide how the BBC has performed, what funding it should get and what its role should be.
Ms Jowell did not speak in detail about the review of the BBC charter.
But she said: "The review will be wide-ranging.
"It will be open and transparent. And it will be motivated by a desire to give the British people the
TV, radio and new media services they deserve, and no other motive will