BBC unveils shake-up amid row over future

BBC unveils shake-up amid row over future

London: The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is to slash spending on its online services and close two radio stations in a shake-up which follows criticism of its market dominance, it announced Tuesday.

Digital radio stations BBC Asian Network and BBC 6 Music will close from next year as part of a strategic review of the BBC’s strategy designed to boost programme funding, said director general Mark Thompson.

The review comes amid political sparring over the publicly funded BBC’s future with general elections looming, with the ruling Labour party warning that opposition Conservatives are “viscerally hostile" to the broadcaster.

Spending on its sprawling online services—which commercial competitors complain stifle competition—will be cut by 25% by 2013, with half the websites closing, Thompson said in a widely-anticipated presentation.

The shake-up will free up an extra £600 million (Rs4,122 crore) to be spent on programme-making, he told staff at the BBC’s headquarters in London.

UK culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, the minister responsible for media, hailed the review, saying: “I welcome the BBC is thinking hard about what it does and where it should focus in future."

Thompson said that Asian Network, targeted at Britain’s South Asian communities, and alternative music station 6 Music will close in 2011 at the earliest.

The plans will now be considered by the BBC Trust, a body which oversees the broadcaster’s activities, and be put out for public consultation.

The BBC, funded by the licence fee levied on all those in Britain who own a television, regularly comes under fire from rivals and other critics for its alleged unfair dominance.