BBC to axe half of its 400 websites

Puts it down to "refocusing editorial priorities"

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The BBC has announced major cutbacks of its online properties, with the aim of bringing costs down from £137 million to £103 million by 2013/14.

Half of the BBC's 400 "top line" domains will be closed, replacing the majority of its programme websites with automated content.

Those cuts will include changes to the iPlayer as well as major shifts into more local news and sport.

The biggest change to the iPlayer will be that it is being stripped of radio content. Instead users will be diverted to the radio and music channels.

Focus on news

News is to be the core of the new-look and substantially trimmed BBC Online, with the BBC's Erik Huggers saying about the changes: "News is absolutely central to service on BBC Online.

"There will be a high quality focus on video and audio, and a network of correspondents in the UK and the world.

"BBC services will have a much clearer focus on basics: local news, weather and travel.

"Sport is very important but not doing every sports news service means we can be more in depth."

Huggers also noted: "There will be a substantial reduction in showbusiness news and we will be dialing up our culture and arts content.

"There will be fewer news blogs and sport news. Services like 606 and BBC iPlayer message boards and H2G2 will go."

Cutting the huge success

"BBC online lies at the heart of the BBC' s digital future," said BBC Director General Mark Thompson.

"As in television and radio, licence fee payers look to the BBC to inform, educate and entertain them online.

"As digital technologies advance, internet delivery of content becomes more important and more profound in our lives.

"BBC Online is a huge success, but our vast portfolio of websites means we sometimes fall short of expectation. A refocusing of our editorial priorities, of commitment to the highest quality standards and a more streamlined and collegiate way of working will help us transform BBC Online for the future."

Those changes include increasing the quality of news, more culture and arts coverage, dynamic editions of BBC Online for each nation and more focus on live sport.