The big turn-off: BBC set to cut chat and property shows as budget cuts bite

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The Independent Online

Late night programmes such as Graham Norton's chat show could be axed from BBC1, and BBC2 converted into a repeats channel, under radical cost-cutting proposals being considered by the corporation.

With inflation expected to eat into the BBC licence fee, frozen at £145.50 until the end of 2016, the corporation has promised to deliver efficiency savings of 20 per cent.

Mark Thompson, the BBC Director General, outlined a series of possible reductions to services, designed to protect the prime-time programming that he believes is most valued by viewers.

Programmes on BBC1 that could be axed include Graham Norton's Friday night chat show, and documentary series like Neighbourhood Watched, which follows housing association officers.

The proposals, generated during staff consultation, also include axing BBC2's daytime schedule of property programmes and antiques shows such as Bargain Hunt and Flog It! and placing more repeats from BBC1 on BBC2 at peak-time.

The BBC could save more money by axing late-night films, The Review Show on BBC2 and late-evening coverage of darts and snooker tournaments.

Screens could go blank or once again be filled with pages from a revived Ceefax. Insomniac viewers could enjoy repeats of broadcasts from the Open University or the BBC's Learning Zone, the Director General suggested.

Mr Thompson promised that Question Time, Newsnight and Andrew Neil's This Week would be protected – although the Sunday lunchtime Politics Show could be merged with Andrew Marr's BBC1 interview programme.

The BBC1 arts strand Imagine, presented by Alan Yentob, would also remain, although it may be moved to an earlier slot. More money could be invested in Newsnight and Imagine, Mr Thompson said, if the BBC saved cash in other areas.

"We spend £150m a year on television programmes broadcast overnight, from 10.35pm to 6am," Mr Thompson said.

"Is there a way of filling this part of the schedule for less money? How much of the licence fee should you direct to this part of the schedule given the people available to view?"

Getting rid of all post-10.35pm new programming was "one theoretical possibility". The corporation could rent out spare transmission capacity overnight to other broadcasters, such as the proposed Channel 6, a national network offering local television programming.

The BBC denied that the cost-saving proposals were being thrown out simply to prompt howls of anguish from licence fee payers. Last year, the BBC proposed closing the 6 Music radio station before reversing the plan following a public outcry. Mr Thompson described that row as a "novel marketing technique to double the audience, which is holding up nicely".

Mr Thompson said he currently had no view on the television cutting proposals, which he described as a "set of open questions".He admitted that the success of the Danish thriller The Killing on BBC4 had shown that cost-effective spending on shows from abroad was worthwhile.

The Director General, whose salary will fall to £619,000 this year, after a 20 per cent cut, said reports that the BBC was seeking to lay-off 25 per cent of its staff were "complete bollocks".

BBC cuts: What's off...

Neighbourhood Watched

Bargain Hunt

The Politics Show

The Graham Norton Show

The Football League Show

... and what we'll see more of

Newsnight

Frozen Planet

South Riding

Ceefax

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