The BBC is facing political pressure to abort plans for advertising on its new international website, which is due to launch next year.
A group of MPs, backed by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), is planning to table an Early Day Motion in Parliament objecting to the BBC’s plans to introduce ads.
The motion will be tabled in the run-up to a BBC governors’ meeting in December, which could decide whether the corporation is allowed to go ahead with the plans.
Although the BBC cannot take any advertising in the UK, its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, does accept advertising and sponsorship elsewhere in the world, such as on the international 24-hour news channel BBC World.
BBC Worldwide wants to extend this to include its portal, bbc.com, which is due to launch in the spring. The current proposals would allow banner ads on the site’s news pages but not pop-up ads or rich-media campaigns.
Critics of the plan say it could damage the editorial standards and reputation of BBC news, as well as undermining the future of the World Service.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear describes the introduction of ads as a “slippery slope” and claims the BBC’s editorial integrity and public service values would be “under threat from this crass commercial adventure”.
The union is encouraging the public to petition director-general Mark Thompson, his deputy, Mark Byford, and the director of the BBC’s global news division, Richard Sambrook, to stop the move. It claims over 170 BBC website staff, including managers, technical staff and reporters, have already signed a petition opposing the scheme.
The NUJ parliamentary group is chaired by Labour MP Austin Mitchell.