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BBC to increase Web spending

Hike is for $44.3 million over next three years

LONDON — The BBC is to increase spending on its Web-based activities by 27% over the next three years — a hike of $44.3 million.

This will bring the Corp’s online spend to in excess of $209 million per annum for the next three years.

The increase, which is bound to worry privately-funded rivals coping with the impact of the recession, has been greenlit by the Corp’s regulatory body, the BBC Trust, which represents license fee payers.

However, the hike is less than the $76 million Corp topper Mark Thompson requested. Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said BBC Online had to focus on “high priority” areas.

These include news, children’s, and knowledge plus better search and navigation to “deliver real value to audiences.”

The Trust added: “It believes that ongoing robust evaluation of the BBC’s impact on online markets will be necessary to ensure that public value is created by the investment.”

The BBC’s websites are hugely popular in the U.K. and overseas, far eclipsing those run in Blighty by broadcast rivals such as ITV, the terrestrial web, or Channel 4, the hybrid pubcaster.

In a related move, the Trust has approved the BBC’s extra savings package of $583 million, announced March 19, which includes pay freezes for execs and smaller fees for talent.

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