BBC chief predicts smaller corporation after 2012
November 28th, 2009 - 9:48 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

BBC director general Mark Thompson has predicted the corporation will become “smaller” in the future as all broadcasters go digital, with the BBC website is likely to be cut back. In a speech on Thursday, Thompson said a review of the BBC’s role after the national switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting in 2012 was likely to see “reductions in some kinds of programmes and content.”

The BBC, funded by licence fees, regularly comes under fire from rivals and other critics for its allegedly unfair dominance. Its review comes as all media are struggling to adapt to rapidly changing technology and markets, and some - notably Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp - are pledging to end the era of free news online.

Mr Thompson said the BBC “should not respond to, let alone be cowed by, vindictive or groundless press attacks,” saying there would be a “big black cultural hole” if it disappeared - but acknowledged it must change. He said the BBC would focus on providing original content and on its priority areas of quality journalism, cultural, drama and children’s programmes.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Asked about the role of the BBC website, which provides news in 32 different languages along with access to archive material, television and radio programmes, weather forecasts and stock market data, he said it could be cut. “This is great valuable news about the world which can be used by the public here and around the world…. I believe in that,” Mr Thompson said, emphasising the importance of a service that is free to access.

But he added: “Does it have to be this big, can we focus it more, can we make sure that everything on the website really does further the public purposes of the BBC? That’s one of the things we’re looking at.”

The strategy review is due to report early next year.