BBC closes Newsbeat website, iWonder service and BBC recipes as part of online cost cutting

Review sees the end of ring-fenced £5m cash for iPlayer programmes as well as the controversial abolition of the BBC’s Food website

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The BBC’s iWonder service and the website for youth news service Newsbeat are closing as part of a BBC revamp of its online operation.

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The output of Newsbeat – BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s news service – will be merged into BBC News Online, but the separate Newsbeat site and app will be closed. The BBC insist that the Newsbeat brand will be kept, even if the site and app are disappearing. 

Science and culture service BBC iWonder will also be closed, although the BBC say that the site’s storytelling formats will be redeployed across BBC Online.

In addition, the £5m fund for guaranteed iPlayer-only commissions such as the snooker comedy The Rack Pack will be scrapped under changes announced today by the BBC.

In a bid to “focus on distinctive long-form journalism online” under a Current Affairs banner the Corporation is also closing the News Magazine, its service which offers longer features, a newspaper round-up plus a daily quiz.

Travel news will continue to be part of the BBC News offering, but the Travel site will be scrapped and the BBC will cease development of the Travel app.

The announcements were confirmed following the leak of news this morning that the BBC is also closing its BBC Food website and ‘mothballing’ more than 11,000 recipes.

The changes follow Government pressure on the BBC to move away from light material offered by newspaper websites and other content providers and follow the Government’s demand for greater “distinctiveness” from the Corporation in the BBC White Paper.

The changes are expected to save £15m, and follow a review into the BBC’s online operations by Director of BBC News & Current Affairs James Harding.

He said, “The internet requires the BBC to redefine itself, but not its mission: the BBC’s purpose online is to provide a distinctive public service that informs, educates and entertains.

“The Review sets out what we want to be famous for online: trusted news; the place where children come to learn and play; high quality entertainment; live sports coverage and sports news; arts and culture, history and science; and historic moments, national events.

“And we are going to focus our energy on these six areas: BBC News; iPlay and BBC Bitesize; BBC iPlayer and BBC iPlayer Radio; BBC Sport; the Ideas Service; and BBC Live. 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.”

Harding has also inititated a revamp of BBC News to accompany the online revamp. A decision on the future of the three channels – BBC News, Parliament and World – is likely to be taken this summer.

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One suggested option could be merging the 24-hour news service with the BBC World service, although sources suggest that this is unlikely.