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BBC blew $375k on bbc.com

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The BBC has defended its decision to blow $375,000 (£212,000) of public money on the bbc.com domain.

The broadcaster - which is funded by a licence fee payable by every UK household with a TV - bought the domain back in 1999 from US firm Boston Business Computing but refused to say how much it had paid out.

At the time estimates suggested that the BBC had shelled out between £20,000 and £200,000, although some even suggested it could have been as high as $30m.

But following a request under the Freedom of Information Act the broadcaster has finally come clean.

"The BBC purchased the domain name bbc.com in 1999 from Boston Business Computing, Limited, a Massachusetts registered corporation, for US$375,000. The sale involved a 24 month transitional period to ensure emails for Boston Business Computing and visitors to its site were redirected," it said.

But in the six years since acquiring the domain what exactly has the Beeb done with the domain? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Unless, of course, using it to merely redirect visitors to its main bbc.co.uk portal is a good use of $375,000.

Defending its position a spokesman for the BBC told The Register that it was a "very prudent, forward thinking move".

"At the time the BBC purchased the bbc.com the internet landscape in the UK and abroad was still developing," he said. "The BBC had a duty to both its brand and its users to provide an easy route to its online content and so bought the .com suffix from Boston Business Computing."

And although the BBC admits that it "has not exploited bbc.com to date" it now insists that within the last twelve months, "this situation has changed".

"We are currently looking at the possibilities bbc.com offers us, including its potential as an international facing site. Over the long-term, we feel that this justifies the cost of recovery."

While the BBC may have been able to buyout Boston Business Computing, its tough tactics to extract bbc.org from a small Canadian computer club were nowhere near as successful.

In 1999, lawyers acting for the BBC wrote to Big Blue and Cousins demanding it relinquish its bbc.org domain at its own expense even though the Canadian club has legally owned the domain since 1995.

Big Blue and Cousins still operates bbc.org. A brief description of its spat with the BBC reads: "We suffered a temporary challenge when, in December 1999, the British Broadcasting Corporation complained about our use of 'BBC' in our domain name. However, we had a strong case and ultimately prevailed. The BBC just dropped their request." ®

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