Catholic agency joins defence of BBC Online

 The Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) has joined a campaign to save BBC Online. The government has commissioned a review of BBC Online amid calls from the Conservative party and forces within the commercial sector to discontinue its service. BBC Online, which was started five years ago and provides a major Internet resource for international news, will need to prove itself to the BBC Charter Review, which will be examining the BBC as a whole. A public consultation has been launched, with a deadline of 17 November. Don Redding, from Third World Environment and Broadcast Project (3WE), of which CIIR is a member, said: 'BBC Online is now an important part of BBC services, offering additional information and knowledge as well as making much of the BBC's outstanding news and other international material permanently available to internet users. However, its future is in doubt as some forces in the commercial sector, as well as the Conservative Party, want to see it closed down.' 3WE is calling for: BBC Online to be retained and recognised as an integral part of BBC services. It wants new statements of purpose for the BBC as a whole, and each of its services, to be approved by parliament and written into the BBC's revised Charter and Agreement. It defends 'The BBC's purpose to be that of meeting citizens' communications needs, rights and interests,' and says: 'BBC Online provides information and knowledge to citizens in areas in which they are under-served by mainstream broadcast media, including knowledge of the wider world.' Formed in 1989, 3WE is a coalition of development and environment charities, lobbying for sustained, high quality and imaginative coverage of international subjects on UK television. 3WE and its allies in the voluntary sector campaigned successfully to improve the 2003 Communications Act. The new regulator, Ofcom, is now obliged to prioritise the needs and rights of the ordinary citizen over the commercial interests of media corporations.

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