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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 14:05 GMT
BBC keeps web adverts on agenda
How the front page of the BBC News website might look

The BBC's governing Trust has deferred a decision on funding the international part of the BBC website with adverts.

On Wednesday, the Trustees discussed allowing advertising to help pay for parts of the planned BBC.com service.

A Trust statement said: "For the BBC to meet its purpose internationally, it must invest more online. It cannot use the licence fee for this purpose."

But they said more work was needed on how advert revenues would be spent. A decision is expected later this spring.

The Trust is considering a proposal from the corporation's management that would see BBC website users outside the UK contributing towards increasing costs.

While UK users pay for the website through their licence fee, international audiences get the service for free, the corporation argues.

But the British Internet Publishers Alliance (BIPA), which represents UK commercial online media companies, said last week the plan would damage its members' revenues.

Showing adverts to non-UK readers would also undermine the BBC's "worldwide reputation for integrity and impartiality", it said.

'Essential' services

In its statement, the Trust said providing independent news and information to an international audience remained "integral" to the BBC's purpose and the internet was an "essential" part of that service.

But after studying the BBC.com proposals, the Trust said: "We are not currently satisfied we have all the information we think is necessary to reach a decision.

"Consequently we have asked the BBC management to do further work - particularly around how advertising revenue would be reinvested in BBC Global News and the BBC's UK public services for the benefit of licence fee payers."

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said more than 200 BBC staff and 45 MPs have backed its campaign to have the idea rejected.

Higher quality

The plan would see adverts carried on selected high-traffic areas of the site, such as news and sport.

The income would replace BBC World Service grant-in-aid payments, which make up some of the news website's budget.

There would be tough guidelines to protect the quality and impartiality of content, managers have promised.

The BBC has already approved separate plans in which adverts will pay for higher quality video news for international users.

Advertising is also already carried on BBC World TV and the global news channel's website.

Visitors to bbc.com are presently redirected to the international facing bbc.co.uk homepage.

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