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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Mixed reception for Thompson's vision
By David Sillito
BBC News arts correspondent

BBC picket line
A BBC worker holds her child on the picket line on Monday
It is supposed to be about creating a "smaller and simpler" BBC.

And you would be hard pressed to find anyone within the corporation arguing for more bureaucracy.

But plans to lay off 3,780 employees have not gone down well.

The unions claim it is going to affect the BBC's output, especially the news. Cutting so many jobs, it is said, will reduce quality.

So why is new director general Mark Thompson striding in to battle with the unions and cutting budgets for news and factual programmes?

Is the BBC not trying to shed its image as a purveyor of makeover shows and copycat reality formats?

Downsizing

There is little doubt high-profile cost-cutting at the BBC will play well with those looking to renew the corporation's royal charter.

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson needs money to make his vision a reality
In return for 10 more years of licence fee funding, the corporation needs to be seen to be going through some of the restructuring and downsizing that has affected the rest of the British economy.

Picket lines are a good way of advertising how tough the director general is being and how he can be trusted not to waste money.

There is also the matter of wanting to have some money to fund new projects.

Mark Thompson set out a vision of the future when he was appointed director general and he needs money to make it happen.

But broadcasting is a relentless business, and editors and programme makers are often less than impressed with 10-year strategies for a new digital future - especially when they are trying to fill today's running orders and schedules.

Technology

The problem is trying to work out how broadcasting is going to change.

The 10 O'Clock News recently decided to drop its interactive service because not enough people were using it.

Melvyn Bragg
Pod casts of Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time have proved a success
But the "podcasting" of Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time and other radio programmes has been considered a success and the pilot scheme is being extended.

Cutting budgets for programmes with big audiences in order to fund something that may not work is never going to be popular, but the BBC dreads being caught out by new technology.

A quick glance at the problems in the music industry shows what can happen when technology moves faster than executives.

Director generals are very rarely congratulated for the great programmes made while they are in control.

Their legacy is usually dependent on grand strategic visions, which are often risky and always pricey.


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