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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Plans for BBC's future approved
Mark Thompson

BBC director general Mark Thompson's plans for the corporation's future have been approved by its governing body.

The BBC Trust unanimously decided to give the go-ahead to the strategy for the next six years.

Up to 2,800 jobs are reportedly at risk as Mr Thompson attempts to deal with a 2bn budget shortfall caused by a smaller licence fee settlement.

The details of Mr Thompson's proposals will be made public and unveiled to BBC staff on Thursday.

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said the plans were "definitely in the best interests" of the corporation.

"We are confident that the plans we have approved today will safeguard the core values of the BBC at a time of radical and accelerating change in technology, markets and audience expectations," he added.

'Devastating cuts'

The trust also backed "in principle" the sale of Television Centre, the corporation's studio and office complex in Shepherd's Bush, west London.

But it refused to confirm reports that it had approved proposals to place advertisements on the international pages of the BBC News website.

Some BBC staff and union activists gathered outside Broadcasting House in central London ahead of the meeting to express their concern about potential job losses.

BBC staff lobby Broadcasting House
Some BBC staff gathered outside Broadcasting House

BBC News and factual TV - which makes programmes such as Planet Earth and Top Gear - are expected to bear the brunt of the job cuts.

BBC correspondent Nick Higham said he understood about 500 jobs would go in BBC News, largely by amalgamating the television, radio and online newsrooms.

There would also be "considerable" savings in BBC television, in factual programmes, documentaries and children's programmes, while there would also be more repeats, he added.

Last week, some of Radio 4's most familiar voices, including newsreaders Charlotte Green and Peter Donaldson, joined the protest at the proposed cuts.

'Call for strikes'

In a letter published on the Guardian's website, 84 signatories warned of "extremely grave prospects" facing the radio newsroom, with "devastating cuts" that "seriously threaten the quality of the service we provide".

High-profile journalists like Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys have also spoken out in recent months, prompting Sir Michael to urge staff to stay out of the public debate on the future of news and current affairs at the corporation.

Sir Michael Lyons
January - Government raises licence fee by 3%, less than the hoped for settlement
March - Mark Thompson says BBC faces 'tough choices ahead' due to settlement
May - New trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons (pictured) says a debate about how the licence fee is used should be opened
August - Sir Michael says the BBC may 'do less' to meet a budget shortfall
October - Mark Thompson's strategy for the BBC's future is approved

Broadcasting union Bectu and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are drawing up plans to fight an expected announcement which could spark a series of strikes in the run-up to Christmas.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said cuts would lead to "compulsory redundancies and increased workloads".

He said: "It is an abdication of the trust's responsibility to rubber-stamp plans which will undermine quality and lead to the sacking of front line staff.

"It is inevitable anger will grow and calls for strike action get louder."

The government announced in January that the BBC's licence fee would rise to 151.50 by 2012.

Mr Thompson said the settlement left a "gap" of about 2bn over the six years. The deal was less than the projected rate of inflation over the six years.

The trust has already told Mr Thompson to make further efficiency savings of 3% each year.

The director general has said the changes he will announce, under the banner of Creative Future, are designed to make the corporation competitive in a digital media environment.

BBC Trust chairman on the approval of the plans


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