Radio 1 DJs face a summer inside as budget is slashed

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The Independent Online

BBC Radio 1, once the most popular radio station in Britain, has been told to implement a brutal round of cost-cutting in which it will have to slash its budgets by 15 per cent.

BBC Radio 1, once the most popular radio station in Britain, has been told to implement a brutal round of cost-cutting in which it will have to slash its budgets by 15 per cent.

The cuts, part of the BBC director general Mark Thompson's sweeping programme of reforms, will mean that the radio station will have to axe some of its most expensive contracts and will threaten its involvement in covering major music events. The station has been told to find savings of more than £2.25m a year.

Long-standing Radio 1 features such as The Chart Show, a Sunday institution since 1967, could be dropped. The station will also be under pressure to reduce its financial commitment to a roster of major music events that includes coverage of the Glastonbury and Reading festivals and the Radio 1 Big Weekend, which was staged successfully in Sunderland this month.

The Radio 1 controller, Andy Parfitt, has agreed to make the cuts, which come at a time when the station has found a renewed confidence after a long period of decline. "We are going to make 15 per cent efficiencies," Mr Parfitt says in an interview published today in The Independent's Media Weekly. "It's the way of the world that not only do we have to re-energise our strategy and reinforce, but also it's a time of internal change at the radio station as we deliver our efficiencies for the future of the BBC."

Mr Parfitt will be anxious to keep job losses to a minimum among his 92-strong staff. He will also try to hold together a carefully revised presenting schedule that includes such names as Chris Moyles, Scott Mills, Jo Whiley, Sara Cox and Vernon Kay, and which is delivering a growing audience.

The controller said: "It means we have to look closely at the way we staff the radio station and whether we have the right sorts of jobs, and look at our expensive contracts and ask ourselves some tough questions about the value we get from them.

"It's a tough financial time, and at the same time I'm absolutely determined that we are going to improve quality for our listeners."

Last week, Radio 1 won five of the top prizes at the prestigious Sony radio awards, more than any other station.

The Radio 1 Chart Show, once presented by such well-known names as Tommy Vance and Paul Gambaccini, has had a troubled recent history. Mr Parfitt has replaced the young presenter Wes Butters with the pairing of JK and Joel, whom he recruited from a Manchester commercial station, Key 103. He will be anxious not to lose JK and Joel, but radio industry observers have questioned the relevance of the retail-based Chart Show in an era when savvy young listeners increasingly obtain their music by downloading.

The BBC's former head of music and entertainment Trevor Dann said months ago that "the charts are dead. Move on." Radio 1 buys a licence to broadcast the official charts from the Official UK Charts Company, which was set up by the British Phonographic Industry and music retailers. The BBC also pays for the charts to be broadcast on BBC1's Top of the Pops.

The cuts at Radio 1 are part of plans to make savings of £355m across the BBC with about 4,000 jobs set to go. Some staff are expected to stage walkouts this month in protest at the scale of the job losses.

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