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Major changes to Vision commissioning for BBC Online

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Andy Conroy | 11:37 UK time, Friday, 27 May 2011

BBC Online is in the process of making major changes, as we set ourselves up to deliver the new strategy outlined in January. Central to this is the emerging discipline of product management (blogged about by Chris Russell here).

From divisional websites, to pan-BBC products: the operational challenge

This is a challenging process. Like any other media organisation born in the linear age the BBC has had to work out how to embrace emerging technologies to meet its purpose without throwing away what we do best.

The new strategy reflects a move away from an operational model where each BBC division has a website budget to support its own editorial ambitions to one more founded on partnerships. The aim is to bring technically skilled staff in BBC Future Media together with editorially skilled people in other divisions and ask them to create products which have a single set of objectives. This will put boundaries on what we do online, as well as create a more efficient BBC Online that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Along the way, this throws up acute challenges in governance, organisational structure and operations - as well as the challenge of hitting tough financial targets, and the implementation of major projects such as the move to Salford.

Yesterday's announcement to BBC staff

As announced in January, we expect the changes to result in around 360 job cuts, from across the BBC's divisions, over a two-year period. Today, my colleagues in BBC Vision announced to their staff how they will be setting themselves up as part of the new BBC Online. This includes:

• the detail of the job cuts (confirmation that 90 - 100 posts will close by March 2012) and;

• the impact on commissioning within two BBC Online products: TV & iPlayer and Knowledge & Learning

A new focal point for industry at /commissioning

The existing multiplatform commissioning team will be disbanded within BBC Vision, with commissioning to be run at genre/ channel level.

This means that there will no longer be an overall divisional budget to spend on individual TV websites. Instead, fewer commissions will be made and they will be part of a broader creative process which more closely aligns online and linear TV commissioning. These online commissions will also be shaped by the strategy for BBC Online's products. Victoria Jaye and Saul Nasse have outlined more details here and here. And there's more in yesterday's article in Ariel.

What this will mean for audiences

We expect this streamlined approach to deliver operational efficiencies. As a consequence, we hope, it will be far easier for third parties to work with us (this is the subject of a wider review). Also, we expect to be able to reduce investment in competing and non-interoperable technologies. And this will mean that editorial teams are free to focus their resources on providing higher-quality output which will appeal to both regular and new users of BBC Online.

Here's some additional coverage of yesterday's announcement.

Andy Conroy is General Manager, BBC Online

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