Tony Hall

The BBC news director responds to an article by Julie Kirkbride, who argued that the BBC needed to make its new-media strategy more accountable
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The Independent Online

Caxton's printing press may not have led to state-owned publishers ("The BBC is out of line", 15 August) but it did lead indirectly to the public libraries in the 19th century and public service broadcasting in the 20th - revolutionising the provision of information, education and entertainment to everyone regardless of their means.

Caxton's printing press may not have led to state-owned publishers ("The BBC is out of line", 15 August) but it did lead indirectly to the public libraries in the 19th century and public service broadcasting in the 20th - revolutionising the provision of information, education and entertainment to everyone regardless of their means.

The internet is today's mass communications medium. And - as Julie Kirkbride points out - BBC Online has "set a gold standard of quality for the internet". Visits to BBC News Online have doubled in a year to over 100 million. BBC News lies at the heart of our public service mission. And the internet is a primary source of delivering that service.

But Miss Kirkbride suggests our "free" presence on the internet may stop commercial companies making a living. Really? I don't think so. When Reuters are investing £500m, Pearsons £250m in ft.com, BSkyB £250m and UNM £370m in their own websites? Compare that to the BBC's £75m over three years. Second, in "giving" our content to distributors, none is exclusive, none is advantaged. Our job, simply, is to distribute our content to licence-payers with the minimum costs. That is the sort of value for public money the Culture Select Committee should approve of. Third, Ms Kirkbride argues we are not independently regulated. She applauds ITN taking the BBC to the Office of Fair Trading. But what is the OFT if not an independent regulator?

One correction of fact: our news to WAP mobiles service will be a commercial service, neither using nor risking any licence-payers' funds.

Of all news and current affairs audiences in this country, 74 per cent go to the BBC. We aim to continue to set the "public service" gold standard in the new media as well as the old.

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