Ax Swings at BBC Online: 25 Percent Budget Reduction, 360 Job Losses by 2013-14

The British Broadcasting Corp. announced a massive cutback in its online operations, which will reduce the budget at BBC Online by 25 percent by 2013, and result in the loss of up to 360 jobs.

BBC Online will also double its links to existing Web sites, and it stated that it has no plans to launch a social network, add video-on-demand to its iPlayer offerings, or dive into online-only music offerings.

The complete announcement from the BBC, via paidContent:UK:

The BBC is to reshape BBC Online by 2013 to deliver its public-service mission in the digital age. The reorganization will mean that the service license budget for BBC Online is reduced by one-quarter. It will also require the closure of up to 360 posts.

The new plans, which set a much clearer digital agenda for the BBC, are the first step in the delivery of the BBC’s strategy, “Putting Quality First.” The changes, which have been approved by the BBC Trust, will deliver: a better-quality service based on the BBC’s five editorial priorities; a 25 percent reduction in service license budget and a halving of the number of top-level domains; commitments and clarity on what the BBC will and will not do online; a pledge to engage with the industry twice a year about its plans; and an action to double the number of referrals to external Web sites by 2013-14 to around 22 million each month

Under one unified strategy, BBC Online will be transformed into 10 distinctive products: News, Sport, Weather, CBeebies, CBBC, Knowledge & Learning, Radio & Music, TV & iPlayer, Homepage, and Search. Each of them will share common technical features such as consistent design, improved navigation, and the ability for license-fee payers to personalize and access them across a range of devices, from computers and mobiles to tablets and IVs.

To deliver the new BBC Online, the BBC will implement new ways of working around product management, including enhanced collaboration between teams from editorial. technical, design, and audience research.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said: “BBC Online lies at the heart of the BBC’s digital future. As in television and radio, license-fee payers look to the BBC to inform. Educate, and entertain them online. As digital technologies advance, Internet delivery of content becomes more important and more profound in our lives.

“BBC Online is a huge success, but our vast portfolio of Web sites 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.

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.”

The BBC is also announcing a reduction in scale and scope of the Web site and is spelling out areas of refocus, closures and reductions, along with clarity on areas BBC Online will not cover at all.

Editorial focus of the new BBC Online:

• High-quality news focused on up-to-the-minute news updates backed up by rich multimedia content from correspondents across the United Kingdom and the world BBC News

• Entertainment and Arts section will have more culture and arts coverage

• Dynamic “editions” of BBC Online for each nation that reflect the interests of the audience

• Clearer focus of local sites on news, sport, weather, and travel

• Sport will focus on fast, reliable, and in-depth news and dynamic coverage of the best live events that bring the nation together

• Safe, creative spaces for children

• A single merged offer in Knowledge & Learning, making the most of BBC content. from science to literacy, arts to maths — for adults pursuing a passion or brushing up a basic skill, and for children learning at home and school

• Radio will focus on live output and the discovery of new music as played and recommended by BBC DJs and iconic musicians

• BBC iPlayer will be shaped into a unified television offer, bringing together TV channels, program information, and live and on-demand content

• Selected archive content will be featured in TV & iPlayer and Radio & Music

The BBC is announcing a set of closures and reductions as follows:

• The closure of one-half of the 400 top-level domains (with 180 closing ahead of schedule later this year)

• The replacement of the majority of program Web sites with automated content.

• The automation of bespoke digital radio sites 1Xtra, 5live sports extra, 6Music, and Radio 7

• The closure of RAW, Blast, Switch, Video Nation, and disposal of h2g2

• The removal of non-news features content from local sites

• A substantial reduction in show-business news on the News Web site

• Fewer News blogs, with more focus on the updates from leading editors and correspondents

• A reduction in the overall amount of sports news and live sport

• Stand-alone forums, communities, and message-boards and blogs to be reduced and replaced with integrated social tools

• The closure of the 606 community site and the closure of the BBC iPlayer message board

BBC Online will not:

• Launch its own social network

• Offer specialist news content for specialist audiences

• Publish local listings

• Develop encyclopaedic propositions in Knowledge

• Provide continuing professional-development materials for teachers or a managed learning environment for schools

• Become a video-on-demand aggregator in BBC iPlayer, although it will link to other on-demand providers

• Produce online-only music sessions

• Offer track-by-track music streaming

• Invest in exclusive online sports rights

The BBC Online service-license budget will be reduced by £34 million ($54.181 million), from £137 million ($218.319 million) today to £103 million ($164.186 million) by 2013-14. As a result, there will be up to 360 proposed post closures, which will be phased in over the next two years.

As announced by the BBC Trust in December last year, BBC Online’s three-year strategy and business plan will be reviewed annually by the BBC Trust. In addition, BBC Online will engage with industry twice a year about its plans.