The BBC is reported to have spent 19m in the last financial year setting up its BBC Online services. Confirmation of the spend, part of a 96m investment in digital services, is expected to emerge in the corporation’s annual report and accounts published this week (

Ginger Media Group, the broadcasting group fronted by Chris Evans, has announced plans to develop an Internet production group under the banner Ginger Online. John Ousby, former head of new media at Virgin Radio, will lead the division whose first venture will be to develop a Website to support Chris Evan’s TFI Friday show on Channel 4.

Virgin Net, the Internet service provider, is launching a “travel channel” later this month aimed at providing travel information and booking services to both its own subscriber base and other Internet users. Travel services offered on the site include: Lonely Planet, Flight bookers, Virgin Express, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Go!, easyJet, the RAC, and Railtrack.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser software is estimated to have boosted its market share by ten per cent so far this year against rival Netscape. Internet Explorer, the product at the centre of the anti-trust suit being pursued by the US Department of Justice against the software giant, is now estimated to handle 45.6 per cent of page views, compared with 52.2 per cent by Netscape Navigator.

Sainsbury’s, the supermarket chain, estimates 4 million households will have access to its “Orderline” home shopping service following the extension of its pilot service to a network of 32 stores by September (j-sainsbury.

Japanese electronics group Matsushita has announced an agreement with Microsoft to co-operate on the development of interactive TV products to drive the market in “convergence” hardware, capable of handling both TV and PC functions in the home.

The Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) has published a white paper urging European businesses to tackle “a number of significant barriers that obstruct the development of electronic commerce in Europe”. The paper, available at the IMRG Website, suggests that European businesses risk being overtaken permanently by US counterparts unless they respond more positively to the growth in electronic commerce.

Real Media, the online ad sales house, has signed up Web-based e-mail service provider PersonalConnections (Pemail) as a client. Real Media will provide exclusive representation for the UK-based Pemail system, which currently handles 750,000 e-mails a month, on behalf of 60,000 users, across a range of football, travel and charity-related sites.

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