Less is more for Mark Thompson's new era BBC

BBC director general Mark Thompson signalled an end to the era of BBC cross-media expansion today as he revealed a wide-ranging strategic review.

The key recommendations include: spending 25 per cent less on the BBC’s website by 2013; halving the number of sections on the website; a new commitment to make local news no more local; a new commitment to quality journalism; a wide-ranging reform of local radio; a commitment to keep web news ‘generalist’ and with more serious entertainment news content.

He also recommended the closures of Radio 6 Music, the Asian Network digital radio station, BBC Switch and Blast!

Signalling what seems to be an end to an era of great expansion for the BBC, Thompson said in his report:

“In the analogue era, the BBC’s limits were set by the spectrum available to it and the clear separation between different kinds of media.

“Given the convergence of technologies, the BBC’s limits need to be demonstrably based on its public purposes and to be spelled out to a greater extent up front.

“Clearly the BBC needs the space to evolve as audiences and technologies develop, but it must be far more explicit than it has been in the past about what it will not do. Its commercial activity should help fund and actively support the BBC’s public mission, and never distort or supplant that mission.

“Where actual or potential market impact outweighs public value, the BBC should leave space clear for others. The BBC should not attempt to do everything. It must listen to legitimate concerns from commercial media players more carefully than it has in the past and act sooner to meet them.

“It needs the confidence and clarity to stop as well as to start doing things.”

Broadly saying that his strategy was for the BBC to do less things, better, Thompson said: “This strategy is intended to deliver a BBC focused on high-quality content within clearer limits, keeping open a digital public space for all. Not a BBC in retreat, but a strong and confident BBC.”

There were no new recommendations from Thompson on BBC Worldwide, which includes the magazine publishing division which is currently carrying out its own review.

His recommendations will now go to the BBC Trust which is holding a further public consultation before publishing its own conclusions later in the year.

The deadline for consultation reponses to the BBC Trust is 25 May.

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