BBC website to be “halved” in size – newspapers to benefit?
The Times is reporting that the BBC website – often held up as a beacon of technical innovation, exemplary design and the first port of call for millions of people looking for the latest news is to be ‘halved’ under plans that have been submitted to the board of governers.
“The corporation’s web pages are to be halved, backed by a 25 per cent cut in staff numbers. Its £112 million budget will also be cut by 25 per cent. It is also pledging to include more links to newspaper articles to drive traffic to the websites of rival publishers.”
The beeb’s presence in the web market has divided opinion between those who see it as a counterweight to the politically driven content and comment found in the newspapers and blogosphere, and those who think that it unfairly squeezes out other content providers by sheer weight of resources.
There’s merit in both sides of the argument, which has been running for years, but the looming election is bringing the issue into sharper focus. It is assumed that any potential Tory government would be less inclined to let the BBC continue to grow at the pace it has over the last few years and this report is a pre-emptive move to set the agenda on their own terms.
The BBC themselves are staying pretty schtum about it – more or less confirming that the report is real, but emphasising that it is merely a proposal document.
One of the most interesting aspects is that the BBC might carry more links to newspaper sources. Rupert Murdoch (and more recently his son) has been very vocal about the fact that he sees a free BBC news source as a huge problem in his plan to make readers pay for his content.
In fact, the BBC is already carrying syndicated links alongside a lot of its news content and there have been recent moves to include links to blogs and independent news sources.
So why does this matter to you? Well if the BBC are going to passing some of their power into the open media market, that’s going to mean more opportunities for effective use of online PR and relationships with the press. The BBC are known to be cautious about linking to commercial properties because of their obvious non-commercial basis. Newspapers, on the other hand, are keen to find new ways to monetise their content. We’ve seen affiliate links and paid advertorial links creeping into many major media outlets over the last year… so go figure
More importantly perhaps, our very own Rory Lofthouse will be praying that the iPlayer is left unscathed otherwise he’ll have literally nothing to do all day!