TV dramas spared as BBC seeks £20m cuts

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The Independent Online
The BBC's two-month moratorium on commissioning new television programmes ends today, but it is to make budget cuts of £20m, mostly in factual programming, music and the arts, over the next two years.

There will also be some job losses through non-renewal of contracts, while some series will be shortened and others delayed.

The moratorium was imposed by Will Wyatt, managing director of network television, while he assessed how television should take its share of wider corporation cuts aimed at clearing its debt. Last year, the BBC promised the Government that it would wipe out its borrowing requirement - £80m last month - by the end of next year.

Senior programme makers said the pledge had imposed intolerable pressures on budgets. They were also furious that there was no similar freeze on capital expenditure, which included the building of a £3.5m conference facility at the Wood Norton training centre, Norfolk.

Single drama had been expected to bear the burden of the cuts, but Mr Wyatt said yesterday that single dramas and entertainment were safe. There would, however, be "a tighter use of cash" and some re-phasing of productions and transmissions in music, the arts and factual programming.

Mr Wyatt denied claims that the BBC had a mountainous stockpile of untransmitted programmes which controllers were now being forced to screen. It was, he said, merely a question of ensuring the BBC made best use of its stock. Series on the Ministry of Defence and the Military Police are among factual programmes likely to be delayed.

Mr Wyatt said that another area being looked at for possible savings was equal opportunities, where great progress had been achieved in recent years. He denied that the BBC was in a financial crisis - these were small sums of money given the corporation's £1.75bn budget.

A senior BBC programme maker said last night that the cuts were an "intensely depressing piece of news in the light of the BBC's commitment to expand and innovate in features, natural history, history and science programmes''.

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