Monday, 24 January 2011

BBC to cut online budget by 25%

The BBC is to cut about 200 websites as it reduces the amount of money it spends on its online output. The changes, which will see BBC Online's budget cut by £34m, will also result in the loss of up to 360 jobs over the next two years. Among the sites to close are teen site Switch and community sites h2g2 and 606.

The plans are part of the BBC's cost-cutting measures to make 20% savings as a result of the licence fee settlement. The BBC says the changes are intended to make its website more distinctive and reduce competition with commercial websites. Skills website RAW, creative teen service Blast and documentary website Video Nation will also be closed under the reorganisation.

Other reductions include the replacement of the majority of programme websites with automated content and the automation of bespoke digital radio sites 1Xtra, 5 live sports extra, 6 Music and Radio 7.

There will be fewer news blogs while standalone forums, communities and message-boards will be reduced and replaced with integrated social tools. There will also be a reduction in the overall amount of sports news, live sport and showbusiness news, but also more culture and arts coverage on the news website. Local sites will additionally no longer publish non-news features content.

About 180 websites are expected to close ahead of schedule later this year. The overall changes will be made by February 2013-14. BBC director general Mark Thompson said: "BBC Online is a huge success, but our vast portfolio of websites means we sometimes fall short of expectation. A refocusing on our editorial priorities, a commitment to the highest quality standards, and a more streamlined and collegiate way of working will help us transform BBC Online for the future."

As part of the BBC's Putting Quality First strategy, BBC Online will form 10 distinctive areas: News, Sport, Weather, CBeebies, CBBC, Knowledge & Learning, Radio & Music, TV & iPlayer, Homepage and Search. Roly Keating, the BBC's director of archive content, said the website had "grown like Topsy" and would now be easier to navigate, doing fewer things better.

Editorial focus would be on high-quality news, clearer local sites on news, sport, weather and travel and creative spaces for children. The iPlayer will also be reshaped, bringing together programming and programming information with archive content. The current BBC Online budget is £137m.