BBC New trust report says BBC online activity should be "clearly defined and justified in terms of its distinctiveness and its focus on the BBC's public purposes". Photo by Lee Jordan on Flickr. Some rights reserved
The BBC Trust will pursue a 25 per cent cut in the BBC Online budget, it announced in today's release of the 'Putting Quality First' strategy.

The strategy contains the trust's final conclusions, which will be used as a guide by the BBC as it carries out another review, this time of the range and scope of the corporation's services in light of the new licence fee settlement.

In a press briefing this morning, chairman Sir Michael Lyons said he could not rule out service changes and even reductions, but that this is not where the trust should, or would, start.

According to the report, the online budget reduction aims to improve the overall quality and coherence of the service and fulfil the broadcaster's aim to "do fewer things better".

The trust said it will make an announcement soon with more details as to the nature of the changes involved. A new strategy for BBC Online, "where BBC activity in individual online markets is clearly defined and justified in terms of its distinctiveness and its focus on the BBC's public purposes", is set to be published by the executive in January.

"There is a recognition that there is a very high level of anxiety about the BBC's online activities," Lyons said. He added that the trust is pressing for stronger editorial direction for online services and an emphasis on "doing those things that others don't do".

The online strategy is likely to contain details on other proposals outlined in the trust's initial conclusions, such as plans to double monthly 'click-throughs' to external sites.

"We have received a formal submission from the BBC Executive setting out the shape of the proposed reduction to the BBC Online budget and service, and we are currently analysing it," supporting evidence documents say.

"We accept the central argument that the scale and scope of BBC Online has become too broad and unfocused and needs a new, clearer, more coherent boundary but need to test the specific proposals put forward: first to assess whether or not they represent a significant change to the BBC Online Service and require a Public Value Test; second to assess whether or not they deliver the sort of service that we believe is in the best interests of audiences and takes proper account of market impact."

In today's strategy review the trust says it also accepts the case for disposing "substantially" of BBC Worldwide's magazine business "if the right price can be found" and that it should not launch new localised services.

"We agree that in the current market, the BBC should not launch new services that are any more local than its current offerings, particularly now that it is committed to offer support to any future commercial providers of local television news," the report adds.

Within the report the trust also outlines measures the BBC will take to increase the quality of its output in journalism, as one of five areas identified by the director general as a priority.

The BBC will be "harnessing the wide reach and popularity" of BBC One, Radio 1 and Radio 2 to ensure that as many adults as possible consume BBC news services, which currently stands at 80 per cent, the trust added.

The strategy review was launched in September 2009 and the executive put proposals to the trust in March 2010 before publishing its initial conclusions on those proposals in July.

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