Smith's 'Best of British' arts website scheme is scrapped

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Indy Politics

A £100m scheme to put the best of British film drama and the treasures contained in Britain's galleries and museums on the internet has been scrapped.

The project, which was launched with a fanfare of publicity by the Government and has been in development for almost a year, is to be shelved amid fears over its costs and that it become a public-relations disaster like the Dome.

The decision not to go ahead with the ambitious arts scheme is a personal snub to Chris Smith, who was sacked as Secretary of State for Culture earlier this month and who publicly championed the project.

Culture Online was designed to put the best of British comedy, drama, poetry and sport ­ including highlights of England's 1966 World Cup victory and Steve Redgrave's fifth Olympic Gold medal win ­ on the internet.

Mr Smith won plaudits when he unveiled the plan at the Labour Party conference last year.He claimed later that it would make the same contribution as "Open University and Channel 4". The scheme would have needed a new law to bring it into being. But the Culture and Recreation Bill fell in the last session because of lack of parliamentary time. It will not be reintroduced in the Queen's Speech and a senior Whitehall source said Culture Online was "no longer a priority for the Government".

A less ambitious version of the website is expected to be pursued. This may still involve creating an educational site with selected works from museums and galleries.