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BBC faces online shake-up

Five sites culled after government report

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A report into the BBC's online activities has recommended that the broadcaster should take a tougher line on its public service remit and stop replicating content which is, or could be, supplied by private companies.

The Graf report calls for the closure of some BBC sites. The BBC, which has four months to respond to the report, has already decided to cull some content. FantasyFootball, the Games portal, the Surfing portal, Pure Soap and central What's On events listing guide will all close. The Surfing portal, btw, has nothing to do with the Internet but contains information about waves and stuff.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: "Philip [Graf]'s excellent report provides some constructive pointers for how they can do this. It is now up to the Governors to respond on how they plan to redefine the purposes and aims of BBC Online, so that they are more closely aligned to the public service remit of the BBC."

The report calls for all online activity to be judged by the BBC's public service remit. It recommends a precautionary principle - a proposed new service should not launch if there is a close call between the public service benefit and its costs. Two governors should be appointed, one with new media expertise and one with knowledge of competition law, to oversee the BBC's online activities. The report also recommends at least 25 per cent of BBC online content should be supplied by external independent companies.

Hugo Drayton, managing director of the Telegraph Group and chairman of lobby group the British Internet Publishers Alliance, welcomed the news: "It's fantastic. We've been on the case for six years. It's an indictment of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and of the BBC governors that it has taken so long to get movement on this. There is a clear view that the BBC's activities online need to be regulated and reduced." he said he would happily take up a seat as governor.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said the sites will close at the end of the financial year and staff will be redeployed. "It's too early to say whether the other changes will result in job losses. Graf called for 25 per cent external spending - we currently spend about 13 per cent externally."

The BBC has until October to respond to the report, which forms part of the wider review of the BBC's Royal Charter. The report is available for download here. ®

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