6 Music saved, cuts hit BBC Online and Asian Network

The BBC Trust has supported proposals to shake up news provision on BBC local radio and cut 25 per cent of the funding for the BBC website.

It has also backed the case for closing the Asian Network digital radio station.

But digital radio station 6 Music looks to have been saved after being previously earmarked for closure.

The Trust, which is the ruling body of the BBC, published its response today to the Strategic Review put forward by director general Mark Thompson in March. It is part of a process which will detail the corporation’s plans for the rest of the current BBC charter period, which runs until 2016.

With regard to 6 Music, the Trust said: “We do not think a convincing case has been made, as presented, for the closure of 6 Music. The Trust does not agree that there is a consistent strategic rationale for closure on grounds either of promoting digital development or market impact.”

But digital news and talk radio station the Asian Network, also singled out for closure by Thompson, does look set to go.

The Trust said: “We acknowledge the Asian Network is performing poorly and the case for closure could be consistent with the strategy we are setting; we would consider a formal proposal from the BBC to close it but would need to be convinced that any alternative proposed would be a clear improvement in terms of overall public value for British Asian audiences.”

On BBC local radio, the Trust has backed Thompson’s proposals for a “more distinctive role and mission for local radio”.

It said: “We now expect a proposal from the BBC Executive to trial the concept of sharing regional content in non-peak hours to fund improvements including higher quality speech programming in peak hours and a renewed focus on local political coverage.

“We would use the outcome of that trial as the starting point for further regulatory testing. We will postpone our service review of English local radio, which was originally scheduled to commence in the autumn, until we are able to assess any changes that may be made.”

The Trust has endorsed Thompson’s proposals for a 25 per cent reduction in the BBC Online budget. It said: “We would welcome a simpler and clearer focus, including core online publishing services such as news, sport and weather alongside iPlayer.

“We also acknowledge the continued potential of bbc.co.uk to add editorial value in other priority areas (in educational content for school students, for example) – it must not be reduced to the provision of background material in support of other services.

“But that reinforces our desire to see more effective editorial controls and leadership across the board, with effort and funding concentrated where the BBC has a clear and distinctive role and to remove BBC content where it does not have a clear public service rationale behind it.”

The Trust said it will set out a final strategy to take tne BBC up to the end of its current charter period in 2016 by the autumn.

It said: “The result should be a clear Trust agenda for what we will do to get the best out of the BBC. We will want to be as transparent as possible about that so that our progress can be judged by the people we are working for – licence fee payers.

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