Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Tuesday, 2 March 2010

What lies behind the strategy review?

By Nick Higham
BBC News

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The Times revealed details of the review on Friday

The BBC's strategy review had been billed as a radical overhaul of the corporation.

But arguably, there were more radical changes in the 1990s, when the BBC first decided to develop its digital TV and radio stations and its website.

And the aim of the new strategy is to focus on things the BBC has traditionally done well and which connect with big audiences, which is hardly a radical idea.

But this is the first time the organisation has voluntarily offered to reduce its services. That is partly in response to political pressures, prompted in turn by commercial rivals who complain that the BBC has become too big and too aggressive.

So the decision to axe 6 Music reflects frustration on the part of commercial radio stations that they now have to compete with three national BBC networks carrying popular music - Radio 1 and Radio 2 as well as 6 Music.

Slippery slope?

Since popular music is their stock-in-trade, commercial stations say that amounts to unfair competition.

And the plan to reduce the number of pages on the BBC website by half is intended partly to give commercial media companies a chance to make a go of their own offerings, funded by advertising or subscription.

Some critics of the proposals think the BBC's making a mistake: that offering to axe any services in response to commercial pressure puts the BBC on a slippery slope, and that in due course it may find it hard to defend many of its other activities.

Struggling rivals

Its subsidised presence in far too many parts of the media is slowly squeezing the life out of commercial rivals.
Daily Mail

It is certainly true that for many commercial rivals, struggling with an advertising recession, today's proposals do not go far enough.

They would much rather the BBC took an axe to Radio 1 and Radio 2 than to 6 Music, or dispensed with BBC Three and BBC Four.

And it is still possible that the sacrifices proposed by the BBC's management may be sent back for a rethink by the BBC Trust, which commissioned the strategy review and is meant to represent licence payers.

What is more, while the BBC is offering some cuts it is not abandoning new services altogether.

It still plans to develop new ways for people to watch television over the internet, and to give viewers and listeners access to its huge archive of programmes.

One commentator said the presence of so much free audio and video content from the BBC online would create a commercial wasteland.

Graph showing BBC cuts



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