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BBC Online to close 200 websites as Auntie swings the axe

The BBC is about to make substantial cuts to its Online division, slashing 200 websites and losing 360 staff. The Web department's budget will also fall by 25 per cent by 2013.

The BBC is about to swing a giant axe at its Online division, slashing 200 websites and losing 360 staff. Auntie's online budget will drop by 25 per cent to £103m by 2013, as the Beeb's sprawling Web presence is stripped back to core functions. Radio is also being dropped from iPlayer in a shake-up of the Big British Castle's entire Web service.

Our first reaction to the news was to wonder why the BBC had so many websites and staff that it could afford to lose 200 top-level domains and 360 people. Twenty-four jobs will go in sport and 70 journalists will be canned.

The most obvious change for consumers is that iPlayer will become a TV-only service. Radio and music will be accessible via a separate service.

Remaining BBC sites will focus on news, sport and weather, iPlayer and TV, radio and music, children's entertainment, and learning and knowledge. There'll be fewer news blogs, and forums and communities will be switched to social tools like Facebook. Websites for niche radio stations, like the previously threatened 6 Music, will become automated. Sports news will also take a big hit.

The thinking behind the changes has been outlined in a blog post by the BBC's outgoing tech boss, Erik Huggers, who's jumping ship to Intel. Huggers outlines areas the BBC will stay away from, including local listings, teaching materials and specialist news. The post also specifically rules out starting a social network.

The contents of the post should please the likes of Sky, Virgin and other companies, which have long complained that the BBC enjoys an unfair advantage. The Beeb has committed to meeting with commercial rivals twice a year to clarify its plans for the Web. BBC sites will also double the number of links going out to other websites.

The Douglas Adams-inspired H2G2 website will also say 'so long' to the BBC, and 'thanks for all the fish'. The Beeb is looking to offload the site rather than close it. Blast, Switch and Video Nation aren't so lucky and will close.

In the immortal words of Mitch Benn, we're proud of the BBC, so it's sad to hear about any cuts. Where do you stand on the Beeb's online presence? Are you happy for your licence fee to fund free, quality websites, or is this a much-needed reorganisation? Let us know in the comments section below.