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BBC to launch news site

The British public television and radio behemoth will join competitors CNN, ABC, and MSNBC in the online news marketplace.

Watch out CNN Interactive, ABC, and MSNBC: here comes the BBC.

The BBC, the public television and radio behemoth of the United Kingdom, is gearing up to launch the long-awaited BBC Online News. A postcard being mailed out to the media is inviting them to a launch of "BBC News Online" next Tuesday--election day in the United States.

"Coming soon: BBC News Online. Comprehensive U.K. and international news for the Internet from the world's leading broadcaster," reads a teaser on the BBC Web site. It also lists international and U.K. headlines. Some of today's headlines include: "Chinese-U.S. nuclear agreement" and "Louise: the jury revisits evidence and continues discussions," regarding British au pair Louise Woodward's murder trial.

BBC spokespeople could not be reached for comment today.

Like CNN, BBC News is expected to draw on the expertise of reporters that the company has stationed throughout the world, though its effort is expected to be less ambitious than that of CNN, at least initially.

The launch of BBC News Online is part of the company's three-part strategy to expand on the Web, sources said. This summer, the BBC launched Beeb @ the BBC, an entertainment and information service. Beeb offers a series of consumer Web-zines, and already has become one of the busiest U.K. Web sites.

Next, the BBC is expected to redesign its home page on the Web. "Coming soon--the BBC will be relaunching its Web site in mid-December 1997, with new content, new features, and a brand new look," the site reads.

Competition is fierce, however. As reported, CNN executives said recently they intend to add more pictures and sound to the Web site. And CBS is gearing up to launch a business news site. Online services such as America Online and Microsoft Network and Internet directories such as Yahoo and Excite are expanding their news offerings on "channels."

But the BBC, in existence for more than half a century, has built a loyal following.