BBC faces uproar over recipes

BBC Food.
BBC Food. PHOTO: BBC

Word that BBC Food will remove 11,000 recipes sparks petition; BBC then says many of the recipes will be moved to BBC Good Food

LONDON • Recipes. They are seldom controversial. The section of a newspaper, magazine or website devoted to food is not usually the stuff of online petitions or open displays of fury.

But all hell broke loose on Wednesday morning after news that the BBC was "archiving" thousands of its recipes on its popular food website BBC Food was discussed on Radio 4.

"The BBC is removing 11,000 recipes and people can't cope," squealed The Metro newspaper.

A huge public outcry, including a petition signed by more than 159,000 people, hours later provoked a climbdown at the BBC, which promised to keep many of its most popular recipes online.

In a statement issued late on Tuesday, the corporation said it would move as much of the content now on BBC Food to the BBC Good Food site, which is owned by commercial arm BBC Worldwide.

We currently have two websites and we'll move to one. The recipes you love will still be available and we'll migrate as much of the content as possible to the BBC Good Food website. So you'll still be able to carry on baking and cooking with the BBC.

A BBC SPOKESMAN, as the corporation promised to keep many of its most popular recipes now found on BBC Food

One source said: "In response to the massive public reaction, we have decided to accelerate our plans to move our content. People won't lose the recipes they love."

A BBC source had said the recipes would "fall off the face of the Internet" after the food site was closed.

However, moving them to Good Food would make them easy to find and help ensure they continue to appear near the top of Google search results.

Good Food, which also has a magazine, is Britain's No. 1 food website, while BBC Food is No. 3.

The plan to mothball BBC Food is part of a £15-million (S$29.8million) cost-cutting plan hitting the corporation's online services, but was also driven by its attempts to make its services more distinctive as laid out in a government white paper on the future of the corporation published last week.

The move is part of a cut back on magazine-style content and local news. Other sites being closed include travel.

A BBC spokesman said: "We are glad so many people care so much about all our content. But just to be clear, we have never said we'd delete all the recipes nor will we.

"We currently have two websites and we'll move to one. The recipes you love will still be available and we'll migrate as much of the content as possible to the BBC Good Food website. So you'll still be able to carry on baking and cooking with the BBC."

The move to Good Food means the BBC is likely to generate additional revenue from the recipes as Good Food is able to show advertisements as opposed to BBC Food.

Under the BBC's initial plan, people would still be able to access its existing recipes. But reports suggested the recipes could become hard to find.

On Wednesday morning, the hashtag #bbcrecipes trended with celebrities such as journalist Suzanne Moore and columnist Owen Jones using it to make wider points about defending the BBC ("They can take our lives, but they can never take our #bbcrecipes!").

Politicians and public figures expressed their outrage that the BBC was culling a service used by many millions of licence fee payers, with many blaming pressure on the corporation to stop competing with commercial rivals.

Shadow culture secretary Maria Eagle branded the move "mindless destruction" while deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said it would make the "busy lives" of millions of Britons a "little less easy".

On Facebook, chef and food blogger Jack Monroe wrote: "I learnt to cook on the dole using free recipes online and for the BBC to reduce this vital service is an abomination."

The Metro responded by suggesting in an article the "10 recipes you should probably download now (just in case)" from BBC Food. They included Easy Chocolate Cake, Easy Spaghetti Bolognese and Coconut Fish Curry.

Meanwhile, The Guardian gave links to its own online archive of recipes, writing on its website, "Never mind the BBC - here's 20 years of top Guardian recipes".

It went on to offer recipe picks from food editors and writers and chefs such as Nigel Slater, Yotam Ottolenghi and Nigella Lawson, including a well-praised one for triple-cooked chips from chef Heston Blumenthal in 2002.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2016, with the headline 'BBC faces uproar over recipes'. Print Edition | Subscribe