Why the BBC’s old guard called time on the Wibbly Wobbly Web

This morning’s Observer column.

So the BBC is slimming down, in response to government pressure. The World Service is to lose five of its foreign-language services, and a quarter of its staff. And BBC Online’s budget will be cut by a quarter to £103m and the unit will lose 360 staff, at the same time as it embarks upon a radical “redesign” of the website and its navigation. Introducing these developments, the corporation’s director general explained that the hatchet-work was part of a broader strategy to do “fewer things better”. The changes to BBC Online would, he maintained, make the corporation’s web services “more focused and more valuable”.

What links these two victims of corporate surgery? Answer: they’re not television. And that’s highly significant. What the cuts to BBC Online signify is that the internal battle within the corporation between the few who understood that push media represent the past, and the many who think that the Wibbly Wobbly Web (as Terry Wogan used to call Tim Berners-Lee’s invention) is really just the newest way to convey visual stimuli to couch potatoes, is over. And the past has won.