BBC confirms 2,900 jobs to be axed

The BBC today confirmed plans to axe 2,900 jobs over the next three years under moves to make savings of £320 million.

The BBC today confirmed plans to axe 2,900 jobs over the next three years under moves to make savings of £320 million.

In a special message to staff, director general Mark Thompson said 2,500 jobs will be cut in human resources, finance, marketing, training, legal services and other non-programme-making departments.

A further 400 posts will be cut in the corporation's factual and learning departments.

Staff sat stony-faced in newsrooms and offices across the country as they watched the special broadcast on their computer screens.

Around 1,800 workers will be moved to a new regional centre in Manchester over the next five years, Mr Thompson announced.

Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport, and children's channels CBBC and CBeebies are among the departments leaving London.

Mr Thompson said the changes were "necessary", pledging that more money will be put into programme making.

Further job cuts in other BBC departments, including news, are expected next March.

Union leaders warned today of possible industrial action if any of the redundancies were compulsory.

Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of the broadcasting workers' union Bectu, said he hoped the BBC would put more money into production, technical skills and news as part of its review.

But he warned: "We will ballot for industrial action if there are any compulsory redundancies."

Mr Morrissey said it was not a very happy Christmas for BBC staff who were facing redundancies or having their jobs relocated or outsourced.

Union leaders fear there could be hundreds of compulsory job cuts but have pledged to fight any moves to force workers to leave the corporation or relocate against their will.

BBC insiders said today that managers were bracing themselves for possible strikes next year over the job cuts.

It is understood that some managers are already drawing up contingency plans to deal with any outbreak of industrial action.

The job losses - announced less than three weeks before Christmas - are necessary to safeguard the licence fee in the run-up to charter renewal, Mr Thompson told the BBC's 27,000 staff.

The money saved will be ploughed into programme-making, with reality and lifestyle shows abandoned in favour of more drama, comedy, music, learning, journalism, children's, sporting and national events.

Mr Thompson promised fewer peaktime repeats on BBC1 and fewer "derivative or formulaic programmes".

Audiences expect the BBC to "raise its game" and this can only be achieved through savings, Mr Thompson said.

"There is an amazing creative prize for the BBC and our audiences - but it's a prize that comes at a price," he explained.

"To achieve all this, the BBC must undergo nothing short of transformation. This is not a time for introspection and endless debate. It's a moment for action."

He went on: "Audiences want us to raise our game. They want a BBC totally focused on excellence, which gives them more quality, more ambition, more depth than they get from any other broadcaster."

Mr Thompson wants to see "an irreversible shift in the culture of the BBC towards simplicity, opportunity and creativity".

"Any discussion about the future level of the licence fee is bound to begin by asking how much of the future we can afford to pay for ourselves by becoming more efficient. Whichever way you look at it, the investment needed will run in the many hundreds of millions of pounds," he said.

Of the move to Manchester, Mr Thompson said: "It will change our tone of voice as an organisation. It will open doors to new talent and new perspectives. It will win back trust in parts of the country which can currently feel quite alienated from the BBC."

In an effort to reassure staff facing unemployment, Mr Thompson told them: "The BBC has a reputation as a fair and considerate employer. We will not be walking away from our responsibilities or the redundancy terms we offer."

The job cuts are part of a value for money review ordered by Mr Thompson when he took up the director-general post in June.

A total of four reviews have been carried out - the others were concerned with content supply, the BBC's commercial activities and the move out of London.

The main recommendations are:

VALUE FOR MONEY REVIEW

* A three-year savings target of £320 million.

* 2,500 jobs to go in finance, property and business affairs, human resources, strategy and distribution, policy and legal, marketing, communications and audiences.

* 15% efficiency savings - including redundancies - ordered in radio and music, TV, new media, news, nations and regions.

MOVE OUT OF LONDON

* 1,800 staff to move to new creative and broadcast centre in Manchester.

* BBC Sport (including Grandstand and Match of the Day), Radio Five Live and Five Live Sports Extra, New Media, Formal Learning and children's TV and radio (including CBBC and CBeebies) all to move.

* Relocation will take five years.

* TV drama made outside London will increase from 30% to 50%.

COMMERCIAL REVIEW

* BBC should only have commercial activities which exploit and/or export BBC content and the BBC brand.

* BBC Broadcast and BBC Resources may be sold off.

* BBC Worldwide must double its profits over the next two years.

* BBC to hang on to BBC Worldwide's business, TV, sales and magazine activities.

* BBC Worldwide's books, learning and other business may be sold off.

* BBC will no longer broadcast adverts for its magazines.

CONTENT SUPPLY REVIEW

* 25% statutory independent production quota to be maintained in TV.

* 25% "window of creative competition" to be introduced, offering programme commissions to both in-house and independent producers.

* 400 jobs cut in factual and learning - the department which made Walking With Dinosaurs and The Blue Planet - as a result.

Mr Thompson used today's speech to unveil the BBC's new programme strategy.

Peaktime repeats and reality shows will be axed, he promised.

Instead there will be more original entertainment, news and factual programmes.

Mr Thompson said he wanted more shows which form "part of the national conversation" such as Friday Night With Jonathan Ross and Have I Got News For You.

And flagship current affairs programme Panorama will be returned to a prominent slot in the schedules.

Investment will be made in:

* Original British drama and comedy;

* BBC4;

* Music - including a new "Alternative Proms";

* Specialist factual and interactive programmes;

* Original journalism, enhanced newsgathering and current affairs on BBC1 - including more money and slots for Panorama, plus an enhanced presence in the Middle East and across the Islamic world;

* Sporting and national events;

* Documentaries and the arts;

* More ambitious content on radio and the internet.

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