27 July 2009

Advertising on the BBC?

Have a quick look at BBC News online. You will find it at news.bbc.co.uk.

Here's a question for you: do you see commercial advertising? The answer will very likely depend on WHERE you are when you look at the web site.

Those of us who live in the UK do not see advertising, and there is an important legal reason that we do not see advertising. Here in the UK every household with a colour television set is required to pay an annual "television license fee" of about GBP145 (about USD240). This money is collected and given to: the BBC! Since we are paying for the BBC anyway, the BBC is (by law) not allowed to sell commercial advertising in its UK broadcasting. The BBC has taken this mandate into its online activity, and so BBC News Online does not advertise. Or does it?

The BBC is not allowed to show commercial advertising in its UK broadcasting, but it is very much allowed to sell its content to international markets - and those international outlets are allowed to charge for commercial advertising broadcast in THEIR market. So I'm very sorry for all of my friends in the US who watch BBC North America. You are not in the UK, you don't pay a UK license fee, so you can struggle through television commercials like everyone else in North America.

But what about the online operation? A few years ago while traveling in the US I noticed something unusual when I logged into BBC News Online: advertising!

So here's the thing: if you look at news.bbc.co.uk while you are located in the USA, you will probably see paid-for commercial advertising. (It doesn't always work. Try it and see what happens. Post your results here as a Comment because I'd like to know what you see.)

SAME URL leads to DIFFERENT content, depending on where you are in the physical world.

Do you still believe there are no "borders" in cyberspace?