January 24, 2011 / 2:51 PM / 7 years ago

BBC shrinks online unit to cut costs and refocus

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's state-backed public broadcaster the BBC said Monday it would close 200 websites over the next two years in a drive to slash costs and reshape online content.

The move, which includes the loss of 360 jobs, is part of a raft of cost-cutting measures following a reduction in its negotiated license fee funding which was chopped by a fifth last October.

The corporation said the cuts were needed to meet a planned reduction of 25 percent, or 34 million pounds ($54 million), in online content.

The group has been criticised in the past by competitors and legislators for expanding aggressively using taxpayer monies, while commercial firms struggle in the downturn.

Sites to go include more obscure domains like skills website "RAW," teen sites "Switch" and "Blast," documentary website "Video Nation" and community sites like "h2g2" and "606." The BBC iPlayer message board will also close.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson said its online service remained at the heart of organization's digital future, but said it was in need of an overhaul to improve quality.

"BBC Online is a huge success, but our vast portfolio of websites means we sometimes fall short of expectation," he said in a statement.

The BBC said editorial focus would be on high-quality news, with up-to-the minute news updates with rich multimedia content woven in.

It also said show-business news, blogs and message boards would be cut, while Sports news and live sports sections would also be pared down.

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Erica Billingham

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