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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 00:47 GMT
Thompson says BBC 'must keep up'
BBC director general Mark Thompson
Mr Thompson was appointed as BBC boss in March
BBC director general Mark Thompson has defended his decision to axe thousands of jobs saying the corporation must "keep up with the pace of change."

About 2,900 jobs are to be cut, mainly from administration departments, while savings of 320m a year are to be made.

Mr Thompson said the BBC must "grasp the nettle" of bureaucracy and plough the cash into content and programmes.

Almost 2,000 workers are expected to move from London to Manchester to make the BBC better reflect its audience.

Speaking to the BBC's Newsnight programme, Mr Thompson said he had "outlined a compelling view of the BBC's future".

Mark Thompson
Mr Thompson was appointed as BBC boss in March
"Both I, Greg Dyke and John Birt before him have all looked at the issue of the BBC's bureaucracy, our processes, our layers," he said.

"Now is the moment where we really do have to grasp some nettles there and say is there a way we can run this organisation more simply, more directly, with fewer meetings and less complexity and therefore transfer many, many millions of pounds out of that part of the BBC and into programmes."

Talking about the new digital age, Mr Thompson said the public service broadcaster needed to "keep up, or even ahead of our audience".

He also revealed he intended to feature current affairs and investigative journalism more prominently on BBC One.

Mr Thompson also pledged that BBC One would have fewer repeats and less copying of successful genres from other channels.

Professional services and support - 68m
Better procurement - 93m
15% savings in news, radio and music, TV, new media, nations and regions - 79m
15% costs of commissioned TV programmes - 80m
Total savings per year after three years - 320m

He said: "We are at a moment where the BBC has to push harder for real distinctiveness, offering the public programmes of a kind of excellence, and a depth and range, they don't expect elsewhere."

The BBC would only survive in the digital world, he said, if it invested more in areas such as journalism, drama, comedy, music, learning, and children's TV and radio.

The BBC aims to meet the savings target within three years.

The departments hardest hit by the cutbacks are professional services, including human resources, training, finances and legal services, although programme legal advice is to remain as it is.

Announcing the plans earlier on Tuesday, Mr Thompson said the job losses would be through redundancies and outsourcing of posts during the next three years.

Children's TV and radio
BBC Sport
BBC Radio 5 Live
New media headquarters
Research and development
Formal learning
Estimated number of staff moving: 1,800

The BBC employs about 27,000 people and most departments would be expected to make 15% cuts as savings, with some further job losses possible, staff were told.

Mr Thompson also announced a major new BBC media centre in Manchester, describing it as "reconnecting with communities across the UK", but he added it would be at least five years before a major move north.

"It will change our tone of voice and open our doors to new talent and perspectives," he said.

The World Service, too, will be asked to make "significant savings", said Mr Thompson, through investment, efficiency and reprioritisation as part of a separate review.

But, he added, the World Service was not subject to the 15% cuts being applied to other departments.

The announcements come as the BBC seeks to renew its charter in 2007. The charter sets out the BBC's role, structure and funding.

Change is a necessary component in success
D Chesterton, Stafford England

Union leaders vowed to fight all compulsory redundancies and warned of possible industrial action.

In a joint statement, the National Union of Journalists, Amicus and Bectu said: "Far from preparing the BBC for charter renewal, we believe a policy which requires such colossal job cuts, reductions in programme commitments and the sale and privatisation of core sections of the BBC risks destroying its ability to continue as the UK's leading public service broadcaster, and poses a substantial risk to the BBC's continuing right to the licence fee."

The director general explains his restructuring plans


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