BBC to cut 360 website jobs

B'caster to pursue 'upscale' online strategy

The BBC will ax 360 jobs from its U.K. online arm, shutter some 200 websites and refocus its online priorities by moving upscale.

The job losses, to be spread over the next two years, come amid cuts of £34 million ($54 million), 25% of the division’s budget.

The economies have been planned since the BBC announced its Putting Quality First strategy in March. They come partly in response to pressure from rival commercial media organizations, especially News Corp., which claims the BBC’s hefty online presence amounts to unfair competition.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said while BBC Online had been a huge success, the “vast portfolio of websites means we sometimes fall short of expectation.

“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,” he said.

Targeted sites include teen-skewed Blast and Switch and doc service Video Nation. Showbiz stories on the news website are being reduced, while the number of arts and culture stories will be upped. There will be fewer news blogs, with more focus on updates from leading editors and correspondents.

BBC chairman Michael Lyons 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 clearer boundaries.”

The online cuts come as the BBC embarks on savings made necessary by the government’s decision to freeze the annual license fee paid by homes that own a TV and force the pubcaster to take on extra commitments, including the cost of running the World Service and Welsh-language TV station S4C.