The UK Times reports today that Rolex will be the “exclusive launch partner” of BBC.com, a revamped version of the corporation’s international web portal that was developed in order to generate revenue from non-licence feepayers outside the UK who use BBC web services. It seems I am one of 28 million people outside the UK who use the site.
The BBC says the sponsorship deals may generate millions of pounds and will “deliver a new flow of income from international visitors into the BBC for investment”.
BA and Airbus have already signed up. Personally, I have no objection to the ads around programmes, I am getting the programme for free. But I am concerned if BBC starts offering sponsorship packages for product placement or branding within an event, like sports. That sounds more like non-spot advertising to me, in which case the sponsorship should be clear during the credits at the end of the sequence. With World Service radio being grant-in-aid financed, but BBC World TV and BBC.com being advertising supported, this makes for a confusing situation. More money for lawyers though...
Times says that Bectu, the broadcasting union, has protested to BBC management over the web advertising move. A spokeswoman said: “The BBC’s reputation at home and internationally is based on its freedom from advertising and commercial pressures. We believe this will damage the BBC’s reputation as a public service broadcaster.”
Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who operates rival international news networks to the BBC.