BBC Online

'Significant weaknesses' relating to the financial and editorial controls of BBC Online have now been addressed, according to an independent review

An independent review of BBC Online has found that concerns raised in 2008 over editorial control and financial oversight have been "effectively addressed" and that greater transparency has been given to future plans.

The review, commissioned by the BBC Trust, followed a service review by the Trust itself in May 2008, in which the BBC Online service was found to have "some significant weaknesses" in relation to financial controls, as well as strategic and editorial oversight.

"The [2008] review found that needs stronger central editorial control and more consistency in look and feel and approaches to external linking," today's report says.

"It also stated that more effective editorial control was necessary to ensure that the service is distinctive."

The BBC Executive was also asked to "gain a better understanding of the market in which BBC Online operates".

Today's follow-up review, carried out by Helena Renfrew-Knight of Scintilla Associates, cited a number of developments which have addressed the concerns relating to editorial oversight, such as the creation of the Online Direction Group in 2010 and that appointment of a member of this group as executive editor of BBC Online.

The report adds that a three year strategy for BBC Online, a result of the Putting Quality First strategy which also set out a 25 per cent budget cut for the service, also worked to address concerns.

The online budget reduction was said to aim to improve the overall quality and coherence of the service, as well as fulfil the broadcaster's aim to "do fewer things better".

Looking forward, the report suggests that there is however currently "limited cross-product communication" between departments and that facilitating this in the future "would be welcomed".

In relation to the need for a greater understanding of the market, the report said that twice-yearly meetings with the industry are helping to provide more transparency of plans for the service.

"It has made its plan for 2011-12 available online and staff from the BBC's online and technology teams publish blog posts on developments on the BBC Internet blog," the report adds.

"Twice a year an industry event is held, covering all 10 BBC Online products and open to all suppliers. The director of future media gives an overview of BBC Online's plans and is open about the roadmap."

BBC Online's commitment to greater external linking was also cited in the report as an example of meeting the challenge of market engagement. At's news:rewired event last month BBC Online editor Steve Herrmann
confirmed that BBC News is on target to double the number of click-throughs from its site to external sources by 2013.

In a foreword the Trust says it is encouraged by the review findings, "which give us assurance that weaknesses identified in 2008 in BBC online controls have since been addressed by BBC management".

"We are confident that steps they have taken to strengthen governance arrangements will help maximise the public value generated by this important BBC service."

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