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BBC gives new look to interactive TV, Web

The broadcasting group brings all its online, digital-text and interactive TV services under the "BBCi" banner, in a move to encourage U.K. viewers to switch to digital services.

By Wendy McAuliffe

The British Broadcasting Corp. has quietly relaunched all of its interactive services under a single brand, its first step toward driving digital access in Britain.

All BBC online, digital-text and interactive TV services were brought under the "BBCi" banner Wednesday, providing a uniform format for its information and education services. The redesign is intended to merge all interactive platforms into one, making it easier for BBC audiences to access emerging digital platforms.

"This is phase one of our rollout--letting people know that there is now a new name for all of our digital services," said a BBC representative. "It was always planned as a low-key launch. Phase two is scheduled for the early part of 2002."

The government's deadline for the analog switch-off in Britain is 2010. Before everything becomes digital, 99.4 percent of U.K. households must be able to receive free-to-air digital channels, according to stipulations laid down by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports.

Incorporated into the BBC's public service mandate is a commitment to help the government drive the adoption of digital in Britain.

"Our aim is to create a networked Britain where people can get British-made content through new technologies that aren't going to go away," said the BBC representative.

The TV and radio broadcaster is using its new-media budget--derived from license-fees revenue--to launch a completely new Web navigation system along with the redesign. The BBCi logo will appear on all the BBC's digital text services and across all pages of its Web site, letting readers know when interactive content is attached. Interactive information is available at a local level.

Staff writer Wendy McAuliffe reported from London.