The BBC is poised to cut at least 12 per cent of its workforce, with the brunt of more than 2,000 redundancies falling on factual programming, senior staff have been told.
The final tally of job losses, which will have to be approved by the BBC Trust, could approach 2,800, according to one person familiar with the situation.
Mark Thompson, the corporation’s director-general, is seeking cuts amounting to 6 per cent of its £3bn-plus annual budget over each of the next five years. A below-inflation licence fee settlement in January left him £2bn short of the funds he had sought for the period.
BBC executives are believed to have resisted calls to close one or more services, such as BBC Three, and opted instead for cuts within existing services. The BBC employs 23,000, of whom 18,000 work in its core public service broadcasting activities rather than BBC Worldwide or the World Service.
Its factual output, which ranges from flagship programmes such as Planet Earth and Panorama to populist output such as Top Gear and Kill It, Cook It, Eat It, is understood to be particularly hard hit by the proposed cuts.
A BBC spokesman did not return calls for comment. Mr Thompson is expected to put the plans to a meeting of the BBC Trust on Wednesday, October 17. The cuts would be a blow to morale at the BBC, which has suffered from the licence fee negotiations falling far short of Mr Thompson’s hopes and a succession of incidents undermining the broadcaster’s image as the benchmark of television probity.
Peter Fincham, the controller of BBC1, resigned last week over the publicity surrounding an independent documentary production. A clip of the Queen was misleadingly edited by an independent producer to make it appear that she had stormed out of a photography session at Buckingham Palace.
Other incidents included 10 occasions on which production staff falsified the identity of winners on phone-in programmes. Three senior producers have lost their jobs so far.
Mr Thompson already faces a growing tide of resentment from staff, led by middle-ranking managers, who are concerned at the management’s handling of the crises and are discussing strike action in protest against the cuts.
It is the second major cull of jobs in less than three years, with 3,780 staff cut in March 2005. Critics say Mr Thompson faces a challenge to convince the workforce of his desire to reduce the number of repeats and increase quality and originality while making economies of this magnitude.
A series of other measures being implented, including moving departments to the north- west of England, have also proved extremely unpopular.
Some prominent BBC journalists have spoken out against the proposed cuts, with Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman warning in August that such savings were “unsustainable”.
Ship them all up to Blackpool or perhaps Northumberland; the ones who refuse to go can be at the top of the list for early RIF.
Hopefully, the strike and non-compliance with transfer orders will be the dagger in the heart of this journalistic dragon, and the days of leftist agit-prop at the BBC may at last be ending.