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BBC cuts Food and Newsbeat sites to save £15 million

Engadget Engadget 17/05/2016 Nick Summers
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The BBC has announced plans to close a string of sites and services including BBC Food, which hosts more than 11,000 recipes. The decision, which has triggered a large public outcry, is part of the broadcaster's pledge to make its programming, apps and news coverage more "open" and "distinctive." It follows criticism from the UK government that the BBC is trying to do too much with the licence fee, replicating and potentially suffocating services that other companies could provide. Shuttering the sites will also help the BBC save £15 million (roughly $21.7 million).

The BBC says its beloved food website will be "archived or mothballed" in the next 12 months, in a manner similar "to other old BBC sites." Notably, the recipes themselves will still be available -- provided you know the exact URL. So while the BBC Food homepage will disappear, along with any new updates, the old database of step-by-step instructions will live on.

Once the Food website has been removed, it'll be much harder for people to discover new recipes -- at the moment, you can use a search box on the homepage to filter them based on a list of ingredients, a chef name or a TV show. What's not clear, for now, is how the closure will affect the searchability of recipes in Google. Many Brits stumble upon BBC Food recipes by simply entering their favourite meal into a search engine. Depending on the BBC's approach, this might still be possible.

BBC Good Food, which operates independently of BBC Food as a separate website and magazine, won't be affected by the change, however.

Other services are also facing the chop. The BBC plans to close the youth-focused Newsbeat website and app, funnelling the team's output through the broader BBC News portals instead. Likewise, the BBC's dedicated Travel site and app will be absorbed by BBC News. Also on the chopping block is the science and curiosity-based iWonder site, the online BBC News Magazine, and local news index web pages. In a further bid to cut costs, the organisation will be reducing "digital radio and music social media activity," as well as additional content "not core to (these) services."

James Harding, director of BBC News and Current Affairs said: "We are going to focus our energy on these six areas: BBC News; iPlay and BBC Bitesize; BBC iPlayer and BBC iPlayer Radio; BBC Sport; the Ideas Service; and BBC Live. We will stop doing some things where we're duplicating our work, for example on food, and scale back services, such as travel, where there are bigger, better-resourced services in the market."

The decision to remove such a wide range of services is bound to attract some criticism. But some would argue that the broadcaster has little choice. That's because the government is now pulling together the next BBC Charter, which will govern the broadcaster's services and programming for the next 10 (possibly 11) years. These could have deeper ramifications, which is why the BBC is trying to co-operate and mitigate the damage with its promise of a new, "distinctive" approach.

The BBC is already struggling with extensive funding cuts -- that's why BBC Three was moved online and why it abandoned live Formula 1 coverage. Today's announcements are, ultimately, just another example of cost cutting and shedding what it considers to be most expendable.


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