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BBC to cut 2,500 posts over five years

From children’s programmes to sports broadcasts, the BBC swung an axe on at least 10 per cent of its workforce on Thursday in an effort to push through £1.7bn in savings over the next six years.

Announcing his controversial “reprioritisation” plan, director-general Mark Thompson told staff that those who survived would be working for a smaller but fitter and more flexible BBC.

Apart from the job cuts, which will see up to 2,570 posts removed over the next 18 months, the broadcaster is considering the sale and leaseback of its Television Centre headquarters in west London for up to £150m.

Mr Thompson said up to 785 obs would be created, however, reducing the net losses to about 1,800.

Other savings will come from dropping a host of projects, such as extending the reach of digital radio broadcasts to 95 per cent of the population. Instead, the BBC will build transmitters that can reach a more modest nine in 10 households.

Mr Thompson told staff, whose union representatives were already threatening a strike, that the BBC would make 10 per cent fewer programmes by the end of the process in 2013.

Staff at the children’s division were the first to learn the extent of the cuts after being told that 88 jobs would go in their department.

Mr Thompson said: “I don’t want to minimise the human consequences of some of the decisions we have reached. But this is not just a story about cuts. It’s about building our future and grasping some amazing opportunities.’’

He added that the new digital era would lead to a change in the way news, factual and other programmes were made, and this in turn would lead to the creation of new jobs.

But union leaders said many of the new jobs would not appear for several years, while the job losses were expected to come in the first phase of the six-year plan.

“They have talked about reskilling and retraining our members, but we want to see more details on that because there is this timelag that could see people out of work for long periods,” said Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of Bectu, the broadcasting union.

He threatened an immediate ballot for strike action if BBC management did not withdraw its stated intention of sending letters seeking volunteers for redundancy.

“That would be provocative,” Mr Morrissey said.

Job cuts will come in most sections of the corporation, but heaviest hit will be BBC News, with up to 490 immediate and 370 “net” redundancies out of 3,000 staff, and the Factual section of the 3,400-strong Vision division, which will lose more than 400 people.

Mr Thompson was reported to have been heavily criticised by well-known broadcasters, such as John Humphrys of the Today programme, when he presented the cuts to them on Wednesday evening. The BBC denied it had been a stormy meeting and said it had been “helpful” to the process.

The BBC has had to find ways to save money since failing to persuade the government to give it the inflation-plus 2.5 per cent increase it had asked for in its licence fee over six years. The efficiency savings of £1.7bn announced yesterday equal a spending cut of 3 per cent per year.

Zarin Patel, the BBC’s finance director, said the government had also refused the corporation’s request to borrow £200m-£300m on commercial terms. According to Ms Patel, the Treasury,over which Gordon Brown then presided, had been concerned about the effect on Mr Brown’s “golden rules” for overall public borrowing.

Date posted: October 18, 2007 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 90