Tuesday, 2 March 2010


[14.55 - French Time] Beeb Director-general Mark Thompson unveiled today to his staff the BBC strategy review, "Putting Quality First". Thompson's proposals to the BBC Trust, the Corporation's governing body, arrive in a delicate political climate for the United Kingdom - with general election coming in a few months.

The proposals were actually leaked to The Times on Friday (http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/media/article7041944.ece) and widely commented, particularly the possibility that the BBC could cut its foreign acquisitions budget (http://www.deadline.com/2010/02/bbc-may-cut-u-s-imports-budget-by-33/) and the fate of digital radio station BBC 6 Music. Radio and Web are deeply impacted by the review.

Besides the BBC 6 Music situation and among the many measures in this 79-page document, Mark Thompson also recommends the closure of teen offerings BBC Switch (a radio/TV brand) and website Blast. Teen audience targets are de facto left to Channel 4 and other broadcasters, but there will be a big focus on children, with CBBC and CBeebies - both praised for the quality of their programmes.

On the fiction front, BBC One is meant to continue delivering "authentic popular drama" up to the Beeb's reputation of originality and excellence. But this commitment comes during a period where indie producers are complaining about BBC budget cuts. BBC Two will get an extra £25m to spend from 2013 with emphasis on "state-of-the-nation" drama and "riskier" comedy. BBC Three remains a sort of laboratory for innovative dramas.

BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm, will look to move away from physical media (such as magazines) in the UK, and to refocus its operations more internationally. BBCW will also ensure that two-thirds of revenues are generated outside the UK by 2015.

"Putting Quality First" is basically perceived by many British observers and commenters as the downsizing of a media behemoth and a political attempt to show the Conservative Party that the BBC doesn’t need government intervention to get its house in order.


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