Internet presence likely to be cut in half

The BBC is poised to cut its spending on U.S. shows by up to a third and drastically scale back its online presence, according to local reports.

The proposals, which involve diverting £600 million ($914 million) to more British content, are based on the assumption that the Government will freeze the license fee, paid by all U.K. homes with a TV, in 2013. Last year the fee raised $5.3 billion for the BBC.

Director-general Mark Thompson wants to cut the $152 million budget for foreign acquisitions by 25%, according to London’s Times newspaper on Friday, citing a leaked document relating to the BBC’s strategic review, which is due to be published this month.

However, that figure could rise to 33%, according to a BBC Trust source quoted by the Times.

The review was set up in response to pressure from commercial media rivals who insist the pubcaster has grown too big in recent years, reaching beyond its public-service duties and competing directly with them.

Currently, the BBC wins credibility and auds with such U.S. fare as “The Wire,” “Heroes” and “Mad Men.”

Thompson’s proposals must be approved by the BBC Trust, whose role is to act in the interests of license fee payers.

Regarding the BBC’s Internet activities, the Times claims the number of web pages are to be halved, backed by a 25% cut in staff employed on online output and a 25% cut in its $170 million budget.

News Corp. chief James Murdoch, who is preparing to introduce pay walls for his newspaper websites, is a critic of the BBC’s online presence.

He has called for the BBC to reduce the size of its news websites and said that, overall, the BBC should be “much, much smaller.”

A BBC spokesman would not comment on “speculation.”

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