BBC breaking 'spirit' of digital content agreement, says trust report

A BBC Trust report will criticise BBC management for breaking the "spirit" of its commissioning relationship with online suppliers, and advise it cuts its roster of well over 800 companies by more than 75%.

The trust's first review of the amount and manner in which the corporation sources digital content from suppliers is expected to be officially published in the new year.

However, MediaGuardian.co.uk has learned that the report will be critical of the BBC and the way it achieves its formal requirement of having 25% of online content provided by independent suppliers.

The report is understood to have found that the average income from BBC digital assignments is as low as between £5,000 to £10,000.

It is thought that the vast majority of digital suppliers on the BBC roster – estimated to be between 800 and 1,000 companies – get practically no work at all.

A second issue is understood to be the kinds of digital work that count towards the independent supply quota. It is understood that technical processes such as site moderation, as well as content creation or website building, are included by the BBC.

"The BBC reaches its quota on a technical level but breaches the spirit of the system," said one source with knowledge of the contents of the report. "The BBC Trust report addresses this."

It is understood the report will say that the BBC roster should be cut back to "under 250" suppliers, with a second source believing it could be whittled down further, perhaps to under 100.

The review is the first the BBC Trust has launched since the online independent quota system was introduced in 2004 following the Graf report for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Findings of the review were due to be published this autumn, but publication is now not expected until the new year. The BBC Trust declined to comment.

The corporation is currently going through the process of cutting 25% of the £135m budget for BBC Online as well as closing 200 websites as part of a strategy review.

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