BBC unveils shake-up of online services including recipes website

Mary Berry, the Hairy Bikers and Nigella Lawson

The BBC has announced that a number of websites, including BBC Food and Newsbeat, are to close as part of plans to save £15m.

The online News Magazine will also close but "long-form journalism" will continue in some form.

Local news indexes for more than 40 geographical areas in England will also cease to exist.

But the BBC will continue to offer a rolling Local Live service. The BBC's Travel website is also facing the axe.

Separately, plans are being considered to merge the News Channel with the BBC's international 24-hour television news service.

While BBC Food is to go, the commercial site, BBC Good Food, will continue.

But the planned end of the BBC Food website prompted an online petition, which has attracted more than 90,000 supporters.

The 11,000 existing recipes on the BBC Food website will not be searchable which could make them harder to find online unless you know the URL.

iWonder closure

"There's been a lot of interest in BBC recipes today," a BBC spokesperson said.

"We are glad that so many people care so much about all our content. But just to be clear, we have never said we'd delete all the recipes and nor will we.

Media caption,

Chef Ken Hom: "It's a real shame because people trust the BBC and it's a public service"

"We currently have two websites and we'll move to one. The recipes you love will still be available and we'll migrate as much of the content as possible to the BBC Good Food website. So you'll still be able to carry on baking and cooking with the BBC."

Recipes from future TV cookery programmes will be searchable for 30 days.

The proposals were announced by head of BBC news and current affairs James Harding.

Mr Harding said the internet required "the BBC to redefine itself, but not its mission".

"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 online creative review, published on Tuesday, sets out savings of more than £15 million, around 15% of the editorial budget.

The proposals, subject to approval, include:

• Closing the iWonder service, redeploying its formats across BBC Online

• Integrating Newsbeat output into BBC News Online, but close the separate Newsbeat site and app

• Stop running local news index web pages, offering instead an open stream on the rolling Local Live service

• Removing ring-fenced funding for iPlayer-only commissions

• Reducing digital radio and music social media activity and additional programme content that is not core to services

'Food library'

Meanwhile, the Mumsnet website has offered to host the BBC recipes.

CEO Justine Roberts told the BBC's director of strategy and digital, James Purnell, in an open letter that there had been "an outpouring of disappointment among the users of Mumsnet".

She said: "We'd like to offer to migrate the BBC's recipes onto Mumsnet, where they can live alongside our own while retaining their BBC branding, and so continue to be accessed, for free, by the British public."

Dan Lepard, a chef whose recipes appear on BBC Food, said the website was an "extraordinary, world-class archive" and asked where were "our rights" to preserve such a "library".

"With the BBC recipes, you know they work. I can tell you that loads of recipes out there, don't work, will fail. The BBC ones work," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

What's cooking?

  • Contributing chefs include Nigella Lawson with 71 recipes, the Hairy Bikers with 477 and James Martin with 1,641
  • A recipe for easy chocolate cake is recommended by 1,002 users. Other favourites are shortbread, sausage casserole and fluffy American pancakes
  • The site contains 11,163 recipes, including 14 for spaghetti bolognese, 55 for vegetable soup and nine for Eton mess
  • Technique tips range from grating a lemon and boiling an egg to gutting a fish and assembling a wedding cake

The changes to Newsbeat will see the site merging into the main BBC News site.

"Audiences want a broader range of stories, which Newsbeat will help deliver online," the report said.

Newsbeat's executive editor Louisa Compton tweeted that Newsbeat would be "at the heart of" the BBC News site with "more stories reaching a wider young audience".

Image source, Twitter

Mr Harding said on Tuesday "no decision" had been made on the future of the BBC News Channel (and the 24-hour World version) but that closure of the rolling channel was not an option.

Among six options on the table, to be decided on by the executive board in July, is a single news channel offering "a global agenda from London".

He also said that BBC News sought to reduce spending on on-air talent by 10% over the next five years.

The online proposals announced on Tuesday follow the publication of the government's White Paper on the future of the BBC last week.

Last year, Chancellor George Osborne said the BBC website was becoming "a bit more imperial in its ambitions".

"If you've got a website that's got features and cooking recipes - effectively the BBC website becomes the national newspaper as well as the national broadcaster.

"There are those sorts of issues we need to look at very carefully," he said.