Following reports last week suggesting the BBC was about to close two radio stations, cut the size of its website and dispose of its magazines, BBC Trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, made the following statement:
“In its first three years, the Trust has focussed on addressing the concerns of audiences and re-shaping the BBC. In particular this has meant working to ensure the BBC delivers genuinely distinctive content, serves all audiences across the UK, and provides value for money for licence fee payers.
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‘Alongside specific changes the Trust has made, and in line with its charter responsibility for setting the BBC’s strategy, the Trust concluded that it needed to look across the BBC more comprehensively. We want to ensure the BBC has the same clarity of purpose around a public service mission that existed when it was created in 1922, and to give it the confidence it needs to pursue and fulfil that mission more rigorously.
‘We therefore decided last summer that the time was right to conduct a full-scale review of the BBC’s strategy, to decide what the future direction of the corporation ought to be. We agreed with the director general that he and his staff should conduct the initial phase of this review and put proposals to the Trust.
‘We will shortly be publishing the director general’s proposals, to find out what licence fee payers think of them and to test opinions and reactions to them from outside the BBC.
‘This is consistent with the Trust’s approach of basing all its work on the views and interests of licence fee payers. We take very seriously the privilege of licence fee funding and we recognise the direct and over-riding responsibility we have to those who pay for the BBC.
‘A major driver behind this review is the fact that both audiences and industry have raised concerns about whether the BBC should focus more sharply on its public service mission. And we want to ensure that the BBC spreads licence fee money only as far as it can go to deliver quality content and that it asks the public for no more money than it needs to do this.
‘Aligned with this, we are conscious of the fact that digital switchover is two years away and that we are at a point where the so-called digital future really has become the digital present.
‘The Trust wants a better understanding of what the seismic changes taking place in the media industry mean for the BBC, so that we can determine how the BBC can most effectively focus on its core public mission in a rapidly changing world. The strategic review will give us that understanding and shape the future course of the BBC accordingly.”