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Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 11:05 GMT


BBC axes 70 drama jobs

Susannah Harker and Jennifer Ehle in the hit BBC drama Pride and Prejudice

The BBC is to cut 70 jobs in television drama production in an attempt to save money. The corporation's largest regional drama centre, Pebble Mill in Birmingham, will lose half of its drama department personnel.

The cutbacks are designed to save 1m a year and will leave 280 staff in the department.

BBC drama production controller Colin Adams said the money saved would be channelled into programme making and overall there would be more investment in drama production.

"These new arrangements will help align the numbers of production staff and our skills base more closely with our editorial requirements," he said.

Freelances to replace permanent posts

[ image: Half the BBC drama production staff in Birmingham will lose their jobs]
Half the BBC drama production staff in Birmingham will lose their jobs
But Jocelyn Hay, chairman of pressure group the Voice of the Listener and Viewer, said: "This is the BBC cutting back on its core resources. "It is pretty devastating to cut 20% of the whole department."

The BBC said the it would replace the full-time posts with independent freelances. It said that this action would help even out fluctuations in demand for production staff.

Producers, executive producers and programme commissioners would not be employed on a freelance basis but only lower production posts such as assistant directors and location managers.

Pebble Mill is responsible for the popular TV dramas Dalziel and Pascoe and Dangerfield as well as the long-running radio soap The Archers. The BBC said it will remain an important production centre despite the cuts.

The corporation has recently launched what it hopes will be a new generation of drama ratings winners, including the two series Holby City and Sunburn.

It is also producing adaptations of Mrs Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, and Nature Boy.

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