Unions have launched a campaign against proposed cuts at the BBC, on the day the government published its green paper on the corporation's future.
Thompson says the public need to know money is being spent wisely
Three trades unions are working jointly to oppose plans announced last year that would see at least 2,900 jobs go.
Director general Mark Thompson said £320m in savings were needed so more money could be put into programmes.
BBC staff attended rallies across the UK on Wednesday, as more details on the cuts are expected later this month.
Unions Bectu, Amicus and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said BBC management and the government were "bowing to pressure" from those with political and commercial interests in a "weakened" BBC.
The campaign was not only about saving jobs, but to show support for maintaining a strong independent public service broadcaster for the UK, funded by the licence fee, they said.
Union officials warned staff to prepare for the possibility of industrial action in the coming months.
Cutting jobs, "damaging programme-making capacity and privatising important sections of the BBC" was no blueprint for a strong, independent corporation, said NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear.
"Some have suggested the cuts alongside today's announcement are the result of a cosy understanding between management and the government to downsize the BBC in the face of commercial and political pressure.
"If so, it is too heavy a price to pay," he said.
The green paper announced on Wednesday saw the BBC as the cornerstone of public service broadcasting, but the proposed cuts would undermine its work, said the unions.
"Many of Mark Thompson's changes will make it harder, not easier, for the BBC to deliver the 21st century public service vision that staff believe in," they said.
Mr Thompson announced jobs cuts in December, mainly from administration departments.
Most departments will be expected to make 15% cuts, with further job losses possible, staff were told.
Almost 2,000 workers are expected to move from London to Manchester, to make the corporation more reflective of UK audiences.
At the time Mr Thompson said the BBC would only survive in the digital world if it invested more in areas such as journalism, drama, comedy, music, learning, and children's TV and radio.
The licence fee would only be kept as the main method of funding the BBC if the public was convinced that the corporation was spending money wisely, he said.
Mr Thompson also had to address a deficit when he took up his post.