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BBC confirms death of 6Music, slashes online budget by a quarter

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The BBC plans to axe its 6Music digital radio channel by the end of 2011 as part of a pledge made by the Corporation's director-general to cut costs at the Beeb.

The BBC Trust published the BBC's 79-page strategy review this morning. It was leaked to the press last week.

Under the proposals, which are now subject to a 12-week public consultation by the BBC Trust, around £600m-a-year will be redirected into "high-quality" programmes.

"Accepting the critical role that it must play in driving audiences to adopt digital radio, the BBC should nonetheless maintain its overall levels of investment in original radio content aimed specifically at digital services," said the review, which is subject to BBC Trust approval.

"It should evaluate the best use of this content investment and of the digital spectrum that the closure of 6Music would release.

"The BBC will also review how some of 6Music’s most distinctive programmes can be successfully transferred to other BBC radio stations, and how its support for new and specialist music can be sustained across the BBC."

The 6Music cull would form part of some major downsizing at the BBC, with plans to cut overhead and infrastructure costs by a further quarter when the corporation's licence fee Charter ends in 2016, said director general Mark Thompson.

The BBC also confirmed the closure of its Asian Network radio station.

The Beeb added that the corporation would recommend shuttering of its Switch and Blast! services aimed at teenagers. "Neither brand is reaching its target audience effectively," said the report and, at the same time, confirmed that its role in addressing that market should take a back seat behind Channel 4 and other broadcasters.

The corporation said it would not undertake "a set of web-native activities" that will include limiting search to its own website and associated external links, but "it will not do general web search for all web content".

Additionally the BBC won't provide its own email, webmail or instant messaging service, nor will it create social networking sites.

"Any social propositions on the BBC site only there to aid engagement with BBC content. The BBC will also ensure that its social activity works with external social networks," said the review.

Overall web budgets at the BBC will by reduced by a quarter by 2013, while the number of websites the corporation serves up will be halved by 2012.

"The public pick up the bill for the BBC and it is right that it constantly evolves to meet their expectations," said BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons.

"We welcome the general direction of this report, although we will want to test and consider how it is delivered. We are clear it heads towards a more disciplined and sharply focused BBC.

"That will mean some difficult choices. But we will not shrink from those choices where they are in the interests of licence fee payers."

It's understood the planned cuts could affect up to 600 BBC staff and freelancers.

"This strategy is intended to deliver a BBC focused on high-quality content within clearer limits, keeping open a digital public space for all," concluded the review.

"Not a BBC in retreat, but a strong and confident BBC capable of living up to the expectations of an increasingly demanding audience." ®

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