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Nearly half of the websites most likely to be closed as part of its big Strategic Review have already long been shut, some for as much as eight years.
BBC online director Erik Huggers recently said half of around 400 top-level directories would be shut under Mark Thompson’s proposal to cut the annual online budget and staff by 25 percent each by 2013…
Today, Huggers published a list of BBC.co.uk’s 407 existing top-level directories. I have visited each of the sites, and found that 88 already state they are no longer being updated, under a notice scheme introduced a year ago.
Many other sites were one-off static commissions that never required up-keep, and some others on the list are technical folders that serve no purpose to visitors. They no longer require human resources, just server space.
In other words, cutting half of the the BBC’s sites is not going to be as difficult as it might have sounded. Huggers need only kill those mothballed sites for good, kill off a few more static sites and reorganise some others in to BBC.co.uk themed areas (ie. Health, Science & Nature).
Many of the site directories on the BBC.co.uk’s master list are from programmes that have long since ceased broadcasting (eg. On The Record), events that took place years ago (Politics ’97) or specialist sections that were already mothballed (ie. Sitcoms).
The BBC has, in the last couple of years, economised its increasingly video-centric website by hosting many programme sites in a new /programmes/ directory system, which shows episodes from iPlayer ahead of structured metadata and only slimline programme info.
It’s not clear that the inactive or non-updated sites will be the ones facing the chop. So far, in public, Huggers is avoiding naming candidates until the BBC Trust has digested and ruled upon the Putting Quality First review in which the proposal was detailed. Top-level directories is an interesting basis on which to downsize BBC.co.uk – a server folder is more abstract than a real-world product; it can redirect elsewhere, contain large or small sites and a site could exist at more than one effective folder name.
When she introduced the policy notifying users of mothballed sites, BBC.co.uk controller Seetha Kumar said: “Routinely deleting inactive content doesn’t feel entirely right, does it?” According to the policy, inactive pages are left online for reference: “We don’t want to delete pages which users may have bookmarked or linked to in other ways. In general, our policy is only to remove pages where the information provided has become so outdated that it may lead to actual harm or damage.”
Commercial web producers, which make a quarter of BBC.co.uk content on a commission quota basis, are concerned at the cutbacks proposal. Meeting again over the issue Friday, members of the Pact indie producers group were told that the BBC’s approved suppliers’ list would become smaller.
Here are the sites amongst the 407 which were already on hiatus…