Birt set to announce sweeping changes

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The Independent Online
JOHN BIRT, the new Director- General of the BBC, is expected to announce the most radical shake-up of the BBC's management structure for at least 20 years on Monday.

In the change most likely to affect viewers, he is expected to back the creation of new directorates, or departments, to commission programmes for both radio and television. This would effectively end the barriers between radio and television services in areas such as drama, comedy, and the arts.

Liz Forgan is tipped to join the BBC from Channel 4 as managing director, broadcasting, a new and challenging post in charge of both television and radio programme output. This would be complemented by separate executives to run BBC resources and finances. BBC 1 and BBC 2 would be planned together, so schedules complemented each other.

A second outcome would be to break down the independence of the so-called 'great baronies' of the BBC, the television service and BBC Network Radio, concentrating power at the centre, in the hands of the Director-General and a revamped board of management.

The changes would be modelled in part on the merged BBC news and current affairs directorate, introduced by Mr Birt in 1987 when he joined the BBC. This bi-media approach has seen star correspondents performing in a range of programmes, from the Nine O'Clock News to Radio 4 phone- ins.

It is judged to have worked well in news gathering, while its impact on current affairs has been more questionable.

Mr Birt is believed to have spent the Christmas period putting the final details of his secret plans in place. Most senior staff have been deliberately kept in the dark.

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