BBC budget cuts to ax 360 employees

Faith Merino · January 24, 2011 · Short URL:

Facing steep cuts, the BBC reorganizes and announces it will shut down half of its top level sites

As the UK struggles to keep afloat in the midst of a major financial crisis, a number of critical British social programs are getting the ax.  Sadly, the BBC was not spared, and on Monday the BBC announced that it will be cutting its online budget by £34 million from £137 million today to £103 million by 2013.  Consequently, some 360 employees will be cut over the next two years as the BBC aims to shut down up to 200 websites, 180 of which will close ahead of schedule this year.

Among the sites to be cut are teen services Switch and Blast, and community site 606, as well as the documentary site Video Nation and the community site h2g2.  The closed sites will be replaced with automated content while news blogs, community forums, and message boards will be replaced with social integration tools.  Additionally, non-news features will be removed from local sites and there will be a “substantial reduction in show-business news on the News website.”

Roly Keating, the BBC's director of archive content, told reporters that BBC Online had “grown like Topsy” and that the news organization simply didn’t need the sites that were placed on the chopping block. 

“The BBC proposals fly in the face of public support for the online service,” the National Union of Journalists blasted in a statement Monday morning.  “The BBC’s own public consultation showed that 46% of people supported the online services and there was strong public opposition to a reduction in service.”

In accordance with the BBC’s Putting Quality First strategy, BBC Online will be reorganizing to present ten distinctive categories: News, Sports, Weather, CBeebies, CBBC, Knowledge and Learning, Radio and Music, TV and iPlayer, Homepage, and Search.  The news organization’s aim is to be more competitive with other news sites.

The cuts and restructuring are the result of massive budget cuts that have hit a vast number of industries and social programs in the UK.  In October, the British government announced in its spending review that the BBC would be forced to freeze its license fee for six years and take over the cost of the World Service, which was then being funded by the Foreign Office and the Welsh language TV channel S4C.  The action amounted to a 16% cut to the BBC’s overall budget, which forced it into the tough position of having to make some drastic cuts to its own programming—and it looks like BBC Online became the primary target.

“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,” said BBC Director General Mark Thompson, in a prepared statement.  “I know that these changes will be painful for affected staff. But I firmly believe that they are right for the BBC at this time.”

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