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BBC Mutiny Over Web Ads

The British Broadcasting Corporation, Britain's largest media outlet, has come under fire from its own employees for plans to sell ads on its Web site. Employees circulated a 10-page document condemning the proposal, which they say could lead to "less serious journalism" and might damage the BBC's reputation. More than 170 BBC Web site employees signed a petition protesting the idea.

Say what you will about the quality of American journalism relative to the BBC, but if American news media outlets operated that way, they would all be virtually bankrupt. Remember, the BBC is one of the world's largest publicly funded media outlets, financed mainly by television licensing fees by British TV owners, as well as by grants from the government. It does not carry ads on its TV programming--although it does sell them on BBC World, its international broadcasting arm, as well as in its magazines.

Like the BBC World arrangement, the new Web proposal calls for ads to be sold only in front of non-UK readers. So what's all the uproar about? BBC journalists are worried that the quality of the content may suffer from increased commercialization. "There has to be a chance that advertisers wouldn't care about us doing stories on poverty and African politics, they'd want us to do more stories on Madonna and Kylie," one dissident said.

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