BBC exec says BBC Food closure was a ‘misunderstanding’ as recipe-saving petition reached 185k signatures

A BBC executive has denied that the broadcaster U-turned on the deletion of BBC Food’s archive, earlier this week.

The company said that BBC Food was to be phased out and its recipes "archived" as it looked to cut costs across its entire operation. Later that day, a sizeable petition, garnering 185,000 signatures in a matter of hours, seemingly pressured the BBC; it then said that the archive was indeed to be merged with BBC Good Food, an external publication run for profit by the BBC’s commercial wing, BBC Worldwide.

On the perception that it had committed a U-turn, James Harding, BBC head of news and current affairs, who is leading its online review, told Radio 4’s Media Show that there was a “something of a misunderstanding,” around the incident.

“To be absolutely clear there was never a possibility that recipes would be removed... all the recipes were and will be made available to everyone,” he added.

Harding concluded: “[It was an] interesting example of the way a story develops over the course of the day. Some media outlets reported that the food site was closing and the recipes would be removed.”

However, putting a spanner in the works, the Guardian quotes a BBC source as saying that the recipes were to be “archived or mothballed” which would see them “fall off the face of the internet”.

“The website will be closed and viewers will have to make a concerted effort to access the archive,” was the source’s conclusion.

On Tuesday morning, a BBC source told The Drum the recipes would be archived, adding: “What we do has to be high quality, distinctive, and offer genuine public value. While our audiences expect us to be online, we have never sought to be all things to all people and the changes being announced will ensure that we are not.”

The spokesperson claimed that two websites would be whittled down to one, lessening the public’s confusion around the issue – however there was no confirmation that the archive was indeed set for BBC Good Food.

Half a day later however, the broadcaster looked to have developed or changed its plan, announcing: “In response to the massive public reaction, we have decided to accelerate our plans to move our content [to BBC Good Food], people won’t lose the recipes they love.”

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