Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, has said the corporation would scale back its web operations and put its future digital TV and radio output under the spotlight after the analogue switch-off in 2012.
Speaking at the Voice of the Listener & Viewer Conference in London last night, Thompson did not outline where the cuts would be made but told the audience: “Expect to see reductions in some kinds of programmes and content – a look for example at the current scope of our website – and a close examination of the future of our service portfolios once switchover has been achieved.”
While admitting that it was important for the BBC to recognise its boundaries, Thompson used the speech to hit back at the rising number of attacks on the BBC, singling out comments made by BSkyB chief executive James Murdoch about it being “sinister” and “Orwellian” during the summer.
He blamed such attacks on the fact that newspapers were now competing against the corporation on the web. He also noted that commercial media groups were not averse to using “indirect pressure through friendly politicians” to support them, possibly a veiled comment in reaction to Conservative Party media policy that would curb the BBC’s influence.
Thompson started his speech with a fierce defence of the BBC’s place in society, dismissing the argument that if it were to disappear, commercial broadcasters would step up and fill the gap in quality content, such as ‘The Proms’, ‘The Reith Lectures’ or the political satire ‘The Thick of It’.
He also vowed that the corporation would continue to stand up for creative freedom, in spite of what he called “a vigorous attempt in the press and elsewhere to suggest that strong comedy and satire are somehow unacceptable in the public space and are evidence that the BBC has lost its traditional values”.