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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
BBC eases rules on news feed use
Woman using a laptop in a cafe
People like to get information when they want and wherever they are
The BBC has opened up its content more so that people can use news stories and headlines on their own sites via RSS.

Revised licence terms mean other sites can integrate RSS feeds from the BBC without offline contract negotiations, as was previously the case.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It is a way of keeping automatically aware of website updates.

BBC News and Sport have made their content available for online news reader programs via RSS since 2003.

But this relaxing of the licence means a much more open approach, according to the BBC News website editor, Pete Clifton.

"We've raised the profile of how we are promoting them and are much more relaxed about other sites making use of feeds, which is an important step," he said.

"We want to share as much of our information as we can and reduce the restrictions we put on sites that can access them. We are making it much clearer and more simple for people to understand how they do this."

It is only right we build in some safeguards so that if they appear on sites we feel are completely beyond the pale, we can act
Pete Clifton, editor BBC News website
He explained that previously the approach was to encourage people to use the feeds for personal use, using news reader programs.

Now, the approach is more open so that people can put BBC content on their own websites. It also allows people to interact much more with the content that the BBC produces.

Mr Clifton added that the BBC had been "cautious" since introducing RSS to the site, but that there was now a real demand for news delivered to people in this way.

Like sushi restaurant conveyor belts, RSS delivers content to people so they can easily pick what they want to read.

"If we are to build public value it's important that we respond to this demand," he said.

Mr Clifton said that RSS had already proved to be a big driver of traffic to the website.

Figures for April 2005 showed that 18 million click-throughs - the number of hits generated by links to the site - were driven by the feeds to the news and sport websites.

Safeguards in place

Initially, the RSS feeds will be available from the BBC's news and sport websites.

The revised licensing agreement lays out certain terms and restrictions to use, including the appropriateness of the sites carrying BBC content, which Mr Clifton said was a necessary safeguard.

Sites that incite racial hatred or promote, facilitate or encourage illegal activity, for instance, are not permitted to display BBC content.

BBC News website RSS pages
The BBC has adopted a more open approach to re-use of its feeds
But in reality, said Mr Clifton, policing all sites in any substantial way would be restricted.

"It is only right we build in some safeguards so that if they appear on sites we feel are completely beyond the pale, we can act; although we can't ever claim we are going to be watching every use of it," he said.

"We will keep an eye on where they are going though."

Other BBC websites are to join the initiative in the next few months.

This means content such as film reviews and chart news could be available as RSS feeds to external sites.

Weblogs and global news sites are making much more use of RSS, and net users are becoming increasingly aware of the technology as small orange icons carrying RSS/XML text appear on sites.

There is also a plethora of news reader programs available for free through which the feeds can be collected and read at leisure.

Some news organisations, such as the UK's Guardian Online, have created bespoke news reader and aggregator programs for subscribers to use.

Mr Clifton said the BBC had considered producing its own news reader program, but felt that there was no need because there were so many other good aggregators already freely available.

Other news providers, such as the New York Times, Yahoo and Reuters offer similar services.

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