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Wednesday, June 23, 1999 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK


Praise for online and digital services

BBC News Online is the most frequently visited BBC online service

BBC Online has become the most-visited Internet content site in Europe in its first full year, according to the BBC's annual report.

The overall audience for BBC Online trebled in 1998, says the report, showing faster growth than the market as a whole.

In the early part of 1999, BBC Online sites were being visited by about a quarter of UK Internet users. By March, monthly page impressions had reached more than 80 million.

BBC News Online is the corporation's most frequently visited online service and the leading news site outside the US.

Winning awards

"It probably offers the widest range of stories of any news site in the world, originating around 300 a day," says the report.

Page impressions for BBC News Online increased from just under eight million iin April 1998 to more than 40 million in March 1999.

The site was redesigned during the year and has won a cluster of high-profile awards, including the Bafta award for interactive entertainment.

Educational sites remained among the most successful. The Teletubbies site now attracts up to 1.2 million page impressions a week, while the GCSE Bitesize revision site was used by a fifth of all GCSE students with access to the Internet.

The BBC Schools Website has become popular among primary school teachers, and is used by 20% of those with Internet access.

Other successful areas of BBC Online include the EastEnders site, one of the most successful launched during the year. However, the report also notes that many of the BBC's other programme-related sites are not much visited, and work will be needed to increase their appeal.

Digital television

The advent of digital television has posed challenges to the traditional position of the licence-funded BBC, but the annual report says that the corporation is well positioned to ensure that "public service values remain at the heart of British broadcasting".

The BBC's licence-funded channels - BBC One, BBC Two, BBC News 24, BBC Parliament and BBC Choice - are available on both digital terrestrial and digital satellite platforms. Arrangements are being made for these free-to-air channels to be broadcast via digital cable when this becomes available.

"We are exploiting the wider bandwidth offered by digital to extend our services to licence payers in other ways," says the report. "The BBC is aiming to create the most dynamic range of channels, stations and services of any broadcaster in the world."

The governors' assessment, published as part of the BBC's annual report, hails the successful launch of new public services such BBC Choice and BBC News 24 on digital television and BBC Online on the Internet.

"Overall usage of BBC Online has trebled in the past year, undoubtedly establishing it as the third broadcast medium," it says.

The assessment adds that the BBC has made a confident start in digital television, but also warns that public service broadcasting will face substantial challenges in the years ahead.

"The prospect of 'total digital' (when digital transmission replaces analogue technology altogether) is some way ahead but has to be thought about and planned for now," it concludes.

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