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Tuesday, October 20, 1998 Published at 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK

UK Politics

BBC defends Online cost

Sir Christopher Bland: Defending money spent on BBC Online

The BBC chairman has defended the use of licence-payers' money to provide online services.

Sir Christopher Bland told the House of Commons Culture Committee he believed the BBC Website provided "outstanding" original content.

[ image: Derek Wyatt: Asked for justification of cost]
Derek Wyatt: Asked for justification of cost
Labour MP Derek Wyatt, a former BSkyB executive, pressed Sir Christopher to justify the cost of BBC Online, which Mr Wyatt put at 30m.

The BBC chairman told the committee the actual cost of establishing the site had been 20m.

"We have a great and increasing range and they [the websites] are outstanding."

He added that the same group of MPs had urged the BBC not to miss the chance to establish itself on the Internet some years ago.

"This committee, if anything, felt we were behind the game in terms of our online exploitation," Sir Christopher said.

"The truth is we put a great deal of resources - but in relation to 2bn total budget a sensible allocation of resources - into what is now the third broadcast medium and I think that is right - it's an outstanding Website."

[ image: Sir John Birt:
Sir John Birt: "News Online is the best in the world"
The BBC's Director General, Sir John Birt, compared the decision to go online with the choice the corporation made to get into television in the late 1930s.

He said: "We shouldn't think of online in terms of where it is now, but where it's going to be.

"It is very likely online will develop into the main means in the future by which all services are delivered.

"It may be in 10 or 15 years' time a significant, perhaps the most significant way, the BBC delivers the public service proposition. I think it follows from that it should be funded by the licence fee."

Sir John added: "We think our News Online site is unequivocally the best in the world.

"It has the riches and depths to expose anything you want to know - there is no better way to find out anything around the world that's happening."

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