The BBC has today confirmed that 360 staff jobs will go as part of cuts to its annual online budget of around £34m.
The BBC Trust first outlined planned cuts to BBC Online last summer as part of its two-year strategic review which also paved the way for the sell-off of the corporation’s magazine business.
Detailing plans today, the corporation’s governing body said a 25 per cent cut to the annual online budget of £137m would see the number of websites it provides fall from around 400 to around 200.
The cuts will see the BBC reduce staff working online by around 23 per cent from the current 1,600 total by 2013.
The cuts to its online service will go some way toward the overall 20 per cent budgetary cut expected as a result of the corporation taking on responsibility for funding the World Service from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the licence fee being frozen at current levels until 2016.
The Trust said today BBC Online services would be reorganised into five key group – News; Sport and Weather; iPlayer and TV; Radio and Music; and Children’s, Learning and Knowledge.
In News, BBC Online will focus on providing high-quality news for a generalist audience, prioritising a distinctive and high-quality product ahead of audience growth.
Sir Michael Lyons, BBC Trust chairman, said: “We are clear about the continuing importance of the BBC’s Online service.
“But we want strengthened editorial vision and a more selective approach in the interests of both public value and market impact. This strategy is about doing fewer things better and [with] clearer boundaries.”
The impact of the cuts will be most keenly felt away from areas concerned with journalism. The Trust said today that its “best journalism” was likely to bear ten to 20 per cent of the budget cut.
However, the corporation intends to close some of its specialist blogs, automate the Today, Newsbeat and Newsnight programme websites, decrease the celebrity focus of its entertainment news and increase emphasis on culture, media and the arts stories.
The BBC’s local news websites will remove a series of services, including local listings, people and places, nature and outdoors, Video Nation and the Black Country, Bradford and Wear local sites.
These changes come after the Trust promised last summer curb the ambitions of BBC Online and not to encroach on services offered by the commercial sector. As part of this promise the Trust confirmed plans not to increase its competition with local newspapers.
The Trust said today the BBC was already the fifth biggest referrer of web traffic to UK-newspaper websites and it intended to increase the number of external links from its local news sites as part of the executive board’s strategy to double the number of current click-throughs to third party internet destinations to around 22m per month.
Diane Coyle, the BBC Trustee who led the review, said: “The Trust is clear that the BBC must manage the service and its impact on the market in a way that holds true to the new strategy.
“We will monitor this closely, particularly the strengthened arrangements for editorial leadership and control. We are also going to continue our dialogue with users and industry.”
The Trust said the BBC would do more to direct the public to other sites by providing external links in its search results, extensive use of the Newstracker to provide links to external news organisations and increased linking to external sites within the body of its news stories.