Fans of some BBC online recipes may have to find alternative sources of culinary inspiration as the Corporation prepares to restrict access to thousands of cookery tips and guides from BBC websites.
The move, which comes in the wake of Government pressure and lobbying from newspapers and online content providers, is part of a BBC drive to save £15m a year by cutting back on magazine-style content as well as local news.
Here’s our guide to what’s going on.
What is happening?
The BBC Food website – which currently has a database of over 11,000 recipes (including ‘one-pot wonders’ and ‘exam-day breakfasts’) – is closing down, with recipes being “archived or mothballed”. Media and entertainment trade union Bectu is preparing for the implications of the move, including possible job losses, and has been negotiating with the BBC over the plans.
Will I still be able to access recipes?
Yes and no. Recipes in the BBC Food archive will no longer be linked to from other BBC sites and you won’t be able to search for them via Google (as they will be removed from indexing). However, if you know the URL for a particular recipe you will still be able to access it.
Meanwhile, recipes seen on television shows, like those fronted by cooks such as Nigella Lawson, will remain online – but only for a 30-day period after programmes are aired.
Will BBC Good Food be affected?
No. The plans will not currently affect commercial sites such as the BBC’s hugely popular Good Food (bbcgoodfood.com). Its wide-ranging selection of thousands of recipes will still be available to access for free online.
https://t.co/jznjPGk4Nx is the UK’s leading food website & is not affected by the BBC’s review. All our recipes are still available for free
— BBC Good Food (@bbcgoodfood) May 17, 2016
Why is all this happening?
The move follows months of negotiation with the Government over the BBC’s need to deliver “distinctive” content which is not provided by the commercial sector. This was enshrined in a new mission statement ordered in the BBC White Paper which imposed on the Corporation a new commitment to “distinctiveness” as well as “impartiality”.
However, it has so far stopped short of the feared requirement that big shows like Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off can not be scheduled against rivals on competitor channels like ITV.
Hasn’t the Government long had the BBC’s online output in its sights?
It has. The eradication of the BBC’s recipes was predicted even before the White Paper, as this RadioTimes.com explainer made clear prior to its publication.
Last summer Chancellor George Osborne sounded the first warning by saying that the BBC was being “imperial in its ambitions” by expanding into content such as recipes.
In the interview with Andrew Marr which took place last July before the Charter agreement he said: “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.
“You wouldn’t want the BBC to completely crowd out national newspapers. If you look at the BBC website it is a good product but it is becoming a bit more imperial in its ambitions.”
What is going to happen next?
More online BBC services, including news and travel websites, are also set to be revamped or closed.
The BBC has now issued a climbdown promising to keep many of its most popular recipes online less than 24 hours after announcing the closure of its food website.
In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the BBC said it would move as much as possible of the content currently on its BBC Food website over to the BBC Good Food site.