BBC considers reducing digital services

Friday, November 27 2009, 13:29 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

The BBC will consider scaling back its digital TV and radio services after the completion of the digital switchover in 2012, its director general Mark Thompson has said.

In a speech delivered to a Voice of the Listener & Viewer conference at the Geological Society in London, Thompson accepted that there has been a "steady increase" in the number of people concerned about the BBC's scope and market impact.

Thompson said that a strategic review of the BBC operation, due to finish next year, would most likely bring "reductions in some kinds of programmes and content" produced by the corporation post-switchover, including the "current scope of our website".

He also explained that the public should expect a greater focus on "original British content" at the BBC going forward, along with more support for British talent.

"Expect to see a further shift of emphasis in favour of key priority areas: the best journalism in the world, high quality programmes and services for children, content of every kind that builds knowledge and shares music and culture, a long-range commitment to outstanding British drama and comedy, national events that bring us together," he said.

Suggestion of scaling back digital services would seem to place pressure on BBC Three and BBC Four, along with BBC 6Music and BBC7, which have not delivered strong enough audience figures to wholly justify the millions spent on establishing them.

In the speech, Thompson said that the BBC would try to forge strong partnerships with other broadcasters for technology, infrastructure and knowledge sharing. Most importantly, though, he said that the review will outline new boundaries for the BBC in a digital and multiplatform world.

"The point of the strategy review is to set out a template for a more focused BBC, a BBC that delivers better quality of higher value. It may point to a BBC which is smaller in some respects, but no less confident, a BBC which is even more capable of keeping that idea of public space alive and populated with wonderful things," he said.

"I also hope it will be a BBC which can command the support of this country's politicians. If independent public service broadcasting is to survive and thrive in Britain, it will because our politicians stood up to defend it, not uncritically, but with conviction and courage."

Conclusions of the strategic review will be published in 2010, with a public consultation on all areas of the BBC operation open until December 24.