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BBC to announce cuts to website, radio services and imported programmes

Mark Thompson will lay out the findings of a review of every aspect of the BBC’s activities. In briefings to ministers, staff, and the media, he will pledge to close two radio stations, shut down half of the BBC website, and slash spending on American imports.

The report, which was planned for publication on March 9 but rushed to print after its conclusions were leaked to The Times , will be billed by Mr Thompson as the most radical overhaul of the BBC’s activities in its 88-year history.

Already 80,000 people have signed an internet petition to save 6 Music, the alternative music radio station earmarked for closure, while commercial rivals are questioning whether the cuts go far enough. The BBC said yesterday it had received 2,500 complaints about plans to close 6 Music and another digital station, the Asian Network.

Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, will inform Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Secretary, of the contents of the report, which include a £300 million cap on spending on sports rights, in a telephone call at 8.30am, before the Cabinet meets at Downing Street.

Mr Thompson will set out the plans to staff, in a presentation at Television Centre at 9.30am.

Corporation employees were yesterday given the chance to enter a draw for seats at the presentation, which will be transmitted on the internal television network. The media will then be given the document at 11am.

BBC executives admit that the review has been drawn up in an attempt to show a potential future Tory government that the corporation has its affairs in order.

The political reaction to the plans is expected to be muted, however, with the Conservatives and the Labour Party anxious not to be seen to be laying into the corporation so close to an election.

Ed Vaizey, the Shadow Culture Minister, was privately rebuked by his party for welcoming news of the cutbacks when the story broke in The Times last week. Mr Vaizey appeared to change his position yesterday, after an e-mail to a 6 Music fan in which he said: “Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut.”

In the missive, which was leaked to the press, he said: “I am now an avid listener to 6 Music. I suspect that 6 Music has doubled its audience. I strongly suspect 6 Music will be saved. I had no strong views on 6 Music on Friday, I now know it is brilliant with a passionate and articulate fan base.”

Other plans expected to be announced include the closure of the teen brands BBC Switch, and Blast!, as well as the rebranding of BBC Two, and Radio 2. Both will be ordered to go upmarket. The corporation’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, will also be ordered to dispense with its British magazines arm, which publishes titles such as Top Gear and Radio Times.

Patrick Foster, Media Correspondent

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BBC cuts to 6Music, Asian Network & Magazines