The BBC Online Cuts: Where, When, Why?

Originally posted on General Musings of an Idiot.

As some of you may have read in the news this morning, the BBC Online budget is being cut by 25% as part of the bigger cuts they are making to the whole of the corporation, to the tune of 20%. Not only that, but 360 jobs will be lost as well. As someone whose dreams and aspirations of becoming a BBC Sport journalist now hang in the balance, I just wanted to write my bit and see who reads it.

With the use of Facebook, Twitter, Google’s new Instant Search feature, and social media, the minute I hit ‘Publish’, my newly-created blog is hammered across 190 different countries, 7 different continents, and ends up on your screen. And it’s this social media that has, ultimately, led to many features being involved in the cull at the BBC.

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The budget cuts announced in October, affecting the whole country and taking £84b out of the funding available to public bodies, had to affect the BBC in some way at some point. Mark Thompson, the Director-General, chose to accept the suggestions of a 6-year license fee freeze, leaving a 16% gap in real-term funding over that period, and a £34m funding windfall. Which means these cuts were going to have to happen at some stage as it is.

So, the news this morning didn’t come as a huge shock, but what the cuts actually are did.

As it stands at this very moment, there’s around 400 different BBC-affiliated websites – from BBC Sport, BBC News, BBC Bitesize, all the way through to BBC History, BBC Jobs and BBC Religion & Ethics. Oh, and obviously the relevant TV and radio sites.

To cut the wheat from the chaff of all these cuts, the BBC will be removing around half of these websites. 180, to be precise. This includes BBC Blast, BBC RAW, BBC h2g2 and BBC Video Nation too. Video Nation is something I hold very close to my heart – it was my first contact with the BBC. I made a few videos for them, had to sign 25-page contracts – the lot. My ‘agent’, if you were, was Ian Stringer, who later appeared on the fourth series of the Apprentice. Little fact for you there.

Anyway, alongside these cuts will be the closure of BBC Switch and the 606 messageboards, which have a cult status amongst sports fans. There’s been a lot of backlash towards this already, but, as mentioned on other blogs and sites, the up-rise in Twitter, and Facebook (see how this all links?), have killed off these messageboards. The majority of discussion now links through Twitter – all live text commentaries and blogging services now have access to some form of Twitter links.

Even more cuts take place with major radio programming – 1Xtra, 5 Live Sports Extra, 6Music and Radio 7 will all now have automated content filling their sites. All this chopping and changing also means that there will be fewer individual news blogs, the vast majority of forums, messageboards and communities will be replaced by social media feeds, sport coverage will be cut back, as will entertainment news, and there’ll be no more non-news coverage for local sites. However, there’ll be an increase in culture and arts coverage… Cutting sport – what the Government are trying to increase in this country – for some more coverage on the West End. Now that seems a little strange.

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But what does this all actually mean for the sites we love and care about? Well, I can tell you a little more about the BBC Sport website, as Ben Gallop’s editorial blog brilliantly explained earlier.

There will be an increase in ‘fast, reliable and in-depth sports news, and more dynamic coverage of the biggest sporting events.’ Increasing these means a loss of other areas – 5 key areas, in fact. Obviously, the aforementioned 606 will be cut, as will the Sport Academy website and the sports news bulletin that features on the site. Also, there’ll be less minor sports coverage, and a re-focus on core coverage, rather than games, which were scrapped last summer.

These changes will start in the spring, and should be in place by the end of the summer. Sad, but a glimpse of what our country is currently suffering.

But that’s just BBC Sport. The overall goal, as explained on Erik Huggers’ blog earlier, is to ‘do fewer things, better‘. A brilliant tagline that explains everything so much better than anything anyone can write. The new strategy sets out 10 separate ‘products’ – different sections of the BBC that will be built upon and around each other. These include News, Sport, Weather, CBeebies, CBBC, Knowledge & Learning, Radio & Music, TV & iPlayer, the homepage, and the recently-updated Search feature. The graphics that feature below explain these changes a lot easier, and are a great resource to demonstrate what the BBC’s ultimate goal is.

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These changes plug the £36m funding gap, and will take place before 2013/14. Over 26m people access the BBC website a week now – it’s the 45th most accessed website on the internet. These changes and cuts will affect every one of these users in some way, but fundamentally, the message the BBC is trying to convey throughout these cuts is that although it looks bad, it is for the best, and the BBC will remain as the most-trusted, highest-quality media outlet we all have come to love.

This blog has obviously taken a little while to write, with the masses of coding that has to be put in to get all the right links working. But, if you want some other great articles regarding the cuts, have a look at Jemima Kiss’ take on it all on the Guardian website, or just follow Lewis Wiltshire on Twitter – he is the Editor of the BBC Sport website, and always has the relevant articles to hand when it comes to great journalism from the BBC.

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