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BBC proposes 6 Music, Asian Network axe

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BBC proposes 6 Music, Asian Network axe
BBC director general Mark Thompson has confirmed that BBC 6 Music and Asian Network are facing closure as part of a radical overhaul of the corporation.

During a briefing today, Thompson also pledged to shut down youth brands BBC Switch and Blast!, claiming that Channel 4 should be leading the way with teenage audiences.

Thompson told BBC employees that he wants the corporation to spend 25% less on its online operation by 2013, with the BBC website to be halved in scale.

He said that expenditure on imported foreign shows will be cut by 20% and a £300m cap will be implemented on sports rights bidding as part of efforts to trim £100m from the BBC's overhead costs.

The director general further revealed that the earliest 6 Music and Asian Network would cease broadcasting would be the end of 2011, while BBC Radio 7 will be rebranded as Radio 4 Extra.

BBC Worldwide has been told to focus on its international operations and "move away from physical media", such as its British magazines division.

Under the plans, around £600m in cost savings would be re-directed towards producing high-quality programming as part of a new focus on content.

Thompson pledged that 90p of every £1 of the licence fee should be spent on content production in the future. He also wants to increase the BBC Two budget and give the channel a new remit to pursue more upmarket programming.

Echoing recent criticism from the BBC Trust, Thompson also called on BBC Radio 2 to "sharpen its distinctiveness in its range of music and speech".

Thompson's strategic review has now been submitted to the Trust, which will launch a 12-week public consultation on its recommendations.

"The public pick up the bill for the BBC and it is right that it constantly evolves to meet their expectations. This strategy review is a key part of that process," said Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons.

"We welcome the general direction of this report, although we will want to test it 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. The end result should be a BBC that is genuinely distinctive, genuinely open and transparent and genuinely public service."

However, the proposed closure of 6 Music and Asian Network is likely to face widespread criticism from listeners and industry figures.

Comedian and radio DJ Phill Jupitus recently described the potential end of 6 Music as "an act of cultural vandalism".

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