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    Thursday, 22 March 2007

    Self-regulation at the BBC...

    Tuesday saw the suspension (and see here and here) by the newly created BBC Trust of BBC Jam, a free interactive online learning service for 5 to 16 year olds reflecting the school curricula in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The service had been first launched in January 2006 and was being gradually rolled out to cover wider areas of the curriculum, but has been the focus of complaint from private providers since its inception. While the service received clearance from the European Commission in 2003, it had been alleged that it had strayed beyond its permitted boundaries.

    The Trust has asked the BBC to bring forward new proposals for its consideration (and that of Ofcom) under the new Public Value Test (recently deployed for the first time in respect of the Beeb's proposed on-demand services). So why pull the site in the meantime? Members of the Trust, speaking this week on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours, 'protested loudly' that this wasn't simply part of an effort to mark out the independence of the Trust from the BBC.

    To be fair, perhaps it was just safety first, and born of a desire to prevent the BBC from having to pay back the costs of running the impugned elements of the service if it was found to be unlawful state aid. New complaints had been made to the EC, and it had put pressure on the Government and the Trust to achieve some resolution rather than test the legality of the provision. Needless to say parents, presumably at least some kids (?!), and the BBC's content suppliers (1,2) aren't at all happy.

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