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BBC to close digital stations?

BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, is reportedly going to announce a strategic review of the broadcaster's operations next month, with major cuts and closures in radio.

Around £600m of the licence fee is to be re-allocated with a lot of the money saved by closing 6 Music, Asian Network and re-branding Radio 7.

[link=http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/media/article7041826.ece]The Times report[/link] goes on to say that Mr Thompson wants the corporation to focus on delivering output of the highest quality instead of chasing ratings. However, to free up what is around 17 per cent of the BBC’s funding he will slash their digital radio offerings by the end of 2011 – a severe blow to switchover efforts.

6 Music, the niche provider of alternative music was recently asked by the BBC Trust to reverse its declining audience, without an increase in its £6m budget. However, the station is now expected to close completely.

The Asian Network will also close, with Thompson deciding that the diverse Asian population cannot be served by one radio station alone. The network is ten times more expensive to run than the relative cost of Radio 1.

Radio 7, the corporation's leading digital station with nearly 1 million listeners, will continue to be funded but it will change name to Radio 4 Extra in the changes.

BBC Radio 3, 4, 5Live and Sports Extra will see no major changes, however Radio 1 and 2 are expected to adjust to their output slightly. With 6 Music closing, Radio 1 will become the only source for popular music and will be asked to closely tie in with 1Xtra through increased cross promotion.

The review will also ask Radio 2 controller Bob Shennan to increase the station's jazz and comedy offering in peak hours and ensure 50 percent of daytime programming is made up of documentaries and speech.

Finally, at a local level where the BBC’s 39 stations have declined in audiences over the past few years, BBC stations will focus on quality news in breakfast and drivetime, with content shared regionally outside these times.

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