BBC head to meet unions over cuts

The head of the BBC will meet union bosses after confirming controversial plans to axe two radio stations and slash spending on its website.

In a major strategic review, director general Mark Thompson proposed closing 6 Music and the Asian Network as well as halving the number of sections on its internet pages.

Union chiefs said the moves threatened up to 600 jobs and warned of strikes to fight any compulsory redundancies.

They will meet Mr Thompson later to tell him they will oppose the cuts.

Hundreds of BBC staff listened in dismay as the director general confirmed the shake-up for the corporation yesterday, which it said would divert nearly £600 million a year to higher quality content.

As well as the radio station closures and website downsize, the closure of teen offerings BBC Switch and Blast! is also recommended.

Spending on imported programmes and films would be cut by 20%, capping it thereafter at no more than 2.5p in every licence fee pound. And spending on sports rights would be capped at 9p in every licence fee pound. The report follows accusations the BBC has been crowding out its commercial rivals and venturing into areas it should not be entering.

Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: “In confirming these proposals, Mark Thompson has put BBC management on a collision course not just with us and the hundreds of BBC staff who face losing their jobs, but with licence fee payers up and down the country.”

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the broadcasting workers’ union Bectu, said up to 600 jobs could go. He said: “These cuts are totally unnecessary and are purely politically motivated. It is obvious that the BBC is being bounced by its competitors and by the political climate ahead of the upcoming general election. It is not acceptable for the BBC to be offering up services and jobs as some kind of sacrifice ahead of the general election.”

A campaign has already been launched to save 6 Music, which attracts nearly 700,000 listeners a week, while presenter Jarvis Cocker has added his opposition to the plans.

Source: Press Association

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