Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 02:31 GMT
BBC Online wins government approval
BBC News Online is the first Website to win a Bafta
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
The government has given the BBC official approval to develop its online services for the Internet as a third broadcast medium.
In November last year, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, gave permission only for piloting to take place.
On Wednesday, he said the BBC could now put its Internet services on a permanent footing as a core publicly-funded service alongside television and radio.
The announcement came on the first anniversary of the launch of BBC News Online and followed a lengthy public consultation exercise.
Its results suggested that 94% of users of the service felt it important or very important that BBC news and current affairs should be online.
There was similar support for BBC Education and 82 per cent of users said the BBC should provide online information about programmes and services.
BBC Online will be funded from the licence fee paid by owners of television sets. Around £20m has already been spent to develop the service.
Last month the BBC's chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, was asked to justify the use of licence payers' money for Online in front of an oversight committee of MPs.
He said an outstanding service had been created and a sensible allocation of resources had been made compared to a £2bn total budget.
The bbc.co.uk umbrella site is planning a major relaunch next spring when new services, content, design, navigation and functions are expected.
BBC Online was awarded the status of a Millennium Product on Monday by the Department of Trade and Industry.
This is a Design Council initiative aimed at identifying British products and services for the new millennium.
Submissions have to be pioneering, forward thinking, challenging, creative and innovative.
Last week, News Online became the first Website to win an award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta), at its inaugural Interactive Entertainment awards.
In June, the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) assessed BBC Online as the most visited UK content site, with 31m page impressions a month and more than 1.3m users.