The BBC has said that its original content for iPlayer will continue and that its BBC Food recipes will be saved – despite a wave of cuts to the corporation’s online arm.
The BBC announced this morning a heap of cuts and closures for BBC Online, following a review to ensure that its digital presence is both “high quality and distinctive”.
The process, which began last autumn, was led by James Harding, Director of BBC News and Current Affairs, and concluded that, to meet to the government’s call for the BBC to be more “distinctive”, duplicate content and work in areas with big competitors should be stopped. The report confirmed that much of what is there is already “clearly distinct from the market”, but that BBC Online would focus in the future on six areas: trusted, impartial and accurate news (BBC News), live sports coverage and news (BBC Sport), a place for kids to learn and play safely (iPlay and BBC Bitesize), high quality entertainment (BBC iPlayer and BBC iPlayer Radio), the “best of arts and culture, history and science” (the Ideas Service) and live coverage of “historic moments, national events” (BBC Live).
To do this, however, a whole heap of cuts are being made, including the closure of the science-themed iWonder service, the BBC’s News Magazine, the separate Newsbeat site and app (Newsbeat’s output will be incorporated into the main news website), and the Travel site and its Travel app. The BBC will also stop running local news index web pages, reduce digital radio and music social media activity and slash funding for Connected Studio, the digital innovation programme, and additional programme content that is not core to services.
The ring-fenced funding for iPlayer-only commissions will also be removed.
In total, the scaling back and shutting down of services will save more than £15 million.
The BBC, though, assures that iPlayer-only commissions, such as The Rack Pack and My Jihad, will not stop in the future, even without the guaranteed £5 million pot for commissions.
“Not at all,” a source tells us, adding that rather than BBC Online, the budget for iPlayer-exclusive titles will “instead come from the BBC TV budget”. (For those concerns about BBC Three, also an online-only platform, the channel’s budget is around £25m, which is not included in these BBC Online cuts.)
Meanwhile, the Beeb has clarified its plans regarding BBC Food, following huge public outcry. More than 120,000 people signed a petition calling for the site to be maintained in its current form, with the corporation saying it would move as much of the content on the BBC Food website over to its sister site, BBC Good Food, which is owned by commercial arm BBC Worldwide (and is therefore not part of the BBC’s online cuts).
The recipes were originally set to become much harder to find, because the site’s homepage and other sections will be taken down – although programme-related recipes will still be available for 30 after the relevant show’s broadcast. Moving existing recipes to BBC Food, however, should mean that they are still accessible and easy to find.
“In response to the massive public reaction, we have decided to accelerate our plans to move our content,” a spokesperson told The Guardian. “People won’t lose the recipes they love.”