THE BBC will remain ‘free at the point of service’ was the clear message of Pete Clifton, the BBC’s head of editorial development for multimedia journalism, as he visited Coventry on Thursday for the latest Coventry Conversation of the spring series.
There has been much debate recently about online outlets introducing pay walls, including James Murdoch’s attack on the BBC at the Edinburgh Festival in August. “Nothing is free, everyone in the UK contributes to the BBC’s work,” said Clifton. “The BBC will stick to its core news output.” Writes Sam Burnett
When asked for his personal view on the debate, he said: “I wouldn’t pay for news myself, not when I could access it free like on the BBC website.”
Using the event to introduce some of the corporation’s plans for its website in 2010, he revealed that that the BBC News site will undergo its ‘most significant relaunch ever’ in a matter of months, outlining changes that will see a greater emphasis on original journalism and promotion of video and audio content.
Clifton also presented plans for online coverage of the upcoming Winter Olympics and said that the real focus was 2012, with the digital switchover and the Olympics: “2012 is a really big year for the UK, it will represent a step-change in digital life,” he said.
As he reflected on a long and varied career in journalism, it was clear that the BBC’s online department has come a long way under Clifton’s stewardship: “The online section used to be on its own, but now it’s in the centre of an integrated newsroom”. As he explains, the news website “used to be peripheral, now it’s central to the BBC’s output.” With an apparent budget of over £140m for the bbc.co.uk website and a wealth of ideas, there are many exciting things to come over the coming few years.
By Sam Burnett