Ian Burrell: A 64-page statement of the obvious

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The Independent Online

Invitees arriving for the BBC's Strategic Review yesterday were told to strap on black plastic wristbands, as if being granted back-stage access to an international music festival. It only added to the sense of anti-climax when the star performer Mark Thompson stepped up to the microphone.

The 64-page document unveiled was largely an exercise in semantics. It set out five areas of priority for the BBC, in brushstrokes so broad – "the best journalism in the world", "ambitious UK drama and comedy", "outstanding children's content" – that they seemed a statement of the obvious. If the BBC hadn't been trying to meet such targets before, what had they been doing?

The director-general promised that budgets would be reallocated to ensure more programming of "quality" and "distinctiveness". But such terms are so subjective that they could be attached to almost any BBC output. Indeed, asked to name a single current programme that would not be suitable, the director-general had none.

Thompson stressed a new co-operative attitude with other British institutions and media companies, saying "partnership will be our default setting". The corporation's critics will be unconvinced.

In the past year, the BBC has been battered by Labour and the Conservatives alike. Crucially, the Strategic Review will be subject to a consultation process that will not be completed before 6 May, the likely date of the general election and the possible outcome of a hung parliament. The review, said Thompson, was "not a piece of political positioning". But that's exactly what it seemed like.