No one would argue that in a publicly funded service – the public who fund it should come first. And I doubt if many would disagree that for foreigners like myself – who are not funding the site – our viewing should be funded by making me view advertising. All well and good to this point.

However the BBC News website has just made a major editorial error in the last week. The change is simple enough – if you view from an IP address identified as being outside the UK – the “Home Page” presented is “International” in editorial content. If your IP address is from inside the UK – you are presented with a “Home Page” that is a UK mix of Home and International news.

Setting aside the technical problems for UK viewers whose web access happens to be routed abroad – and so they miss their UK home page – the real problem is a loss of choice for International viewers. Because in the past you could choose to see the UK Home Page. But now – you cannot. Claims by the editorial team that “all the content is there” and a hastily introduced “UK” link within a day of the change following a wave of complaint running 95% against the change completely misses the point that many are making:

The point of visiting a national news site in this rich and vibrant Internet is to gain a sense of perspective and of the viewpoint of the country whose content you are viewing. By removing the choice of viewing the UK editorial content and emphasis – and replacing it with a bland International page the BBC News site has become as dumb as most of the other “International News” sites to be found on the web. The loss of the UK perspective means the BBC News has now failed two of its six public purposes set out in its charter:

  • Representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities

  • Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK

The solution is simple enough – forget the International Page – just present the UK based home page

John Reith must be spinning in his grave.

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