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Thousands of People Are Trying to Save BBC’s Recipe Archive

Cost-cutting measures may nix the broadcaster’s online recipe database

The BBC's free recipe repository will be shuttered some time in the next 12 months. (Screenshot courtesy of the BBC)
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For years, BBC Food’s recipe website has been a trusted aide to home cooks throughout the United Kingdom and the great regions of the internet. But as a result of cost-cutting measures brought on by the British government, the broadcaster will soon shut down its recipe section, along with its travel tips and local news sections of its website. Currently, more than 11,000 recipes are slated to nearly disappear from the internet as the BBC tries to slim down.

The cuts, which were announced on Tuesday in a report released by the BBC, had been looming as the broadcaster battled with the British government over its role in the media market. As The Guardian’s Jane Martinson reports, in addition to trimming down the public broadcaster’s budget by about £15 million (almost $22 million), some officials were concerned that the BBC was encroaching too closely on the commercial media market. Its critics included the chancellor, George Osborne, who accused the broadcaster of having “imperial ambitions” last year.

“What is the Times, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail or the Sun or the Daily Mirror going to look like in 10 years’ time? It is going to be an online paper probably,” Osborne told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. “If you’ve got a website that’s got features and cooking recipes – effectively the BBC website becomes the national newspaper as well as the national broadcaster. There are those sorts of issues we need to look at very carefully.”

The recipe section isn’t the only part of the BBC’s website getting the axe, but it has provoked perhaps the loudest response from its fans. Since the cuts began looking more likely in recent weeks, tens of thousands of British citizens who say the free recipes are a crucial part of the broadcaster’s online resources have spoken up in the database’s defense, Alexandra Sims reports for The Independent.

“I learned to cook on the dole using free recipes online and for the BBC to reduce this vital service is an abomination,” Jack Monroe, a chef and anti-poverty activist, wrote in a Facebook post, adding she will publish hundreds of her own recipes for free on her blog in response to the cuts.

“I hope I can go some way to filling the gap left for free, instructional, simple recipe resources and cookery guidance, which is vital for so many people,” Monroe writes.

The broadcaster has defended the decision to reorganize the website as an initiative to streamline its services over the next year to provide British citizens with better, clearer information, according to James Harding, the head of the BBC’s News and Current Affairs department.

"We will stop doing some things where we're duplicating our work, for example on food, and scale back services, such as travel, where there are bigger, better-resourced services in the market," Harding said in a statement.

A BBC spokesperson said that the recipes will not be deleted and will still be available, while future recipes published online will be viewable for about 30 days. However, the BBC reports that the recipes that currently appear on the BBC Food website will not be searchable unless the you know the specific URL of the recipe you are looking to make.

For now, it’s unclear how long the recipes will remain easily accessible. But what is clear is that the website will certainly be missed by many who have come to see it as an essential resource in the kitchen.

"With the BBC recipes, you know they work,” Dan Lepard, a chef whose recipes are included in the BBC’s database told BBC Radio 4. “I can tell you that loads of recipes out there, don't work, will fail. The BBC ones work.”

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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