U.K. broadcaster BBC, ICL launch online service

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BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of U.K. state broadcaster the BBC, and U.K. IT company ICL announced on September 19 plans to develop a revenue-earning service on the Internet.

BBC Online is expected to be up and running in the U.K. next spring and will subsequently be marketed internationally. The BBC-branded web service will centre on BBC radio and TV programs and will cover news, sport, information and entertainment, with the chance for users to interact with BBC stars, presenters and staff.

The venture is heralded as a landmark in the mass popularization of the Internet by media commentators who point to the impact of the BBC Computer in the early 1980s. It is the first example of new digital services pledged for the next decade in the BBC Charter last May.

ICL is providing the funding for development of the site and its marketing, but it refuses to divulge costs. BBC Worldwide has committed no money. Both companies will have direct access to and joint ownership of customer data.

Access to the web site will be free to Internet users, but other features will cost. In addition, a BBC-branded ICL-supplied system will provide access to the Internet, for which there will be a subscription fee. Pricing has not been decided. Eventually BBC Online is expected to be available via cable and satellite. The deal lasts until 1999.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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