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BBC plans major restructuring, to axe 6,000 employees

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MUMBAI: The BBC is planning to announce a radical shake-up today and has plans to sack close to 6000 employees in order to save hundreds of millions of pounds a year. This step comes in the wake of the broadcaster's licence fee being under review and its need to prove to the government that it is operating efficiently.

This has been touted as the most significant overhaul in the corporation's history, wherein BBC director general Mark Thompson will unveil plans to make the BBC more efficient and refocus its role as a public service broadcaster.

According to a media report, the BBC plunged £240 million into the red last year and needs to make major savings. Apart from its licence fee being under review, its Charter, which expires in 2006, is also up for renewal. The corporation will have to justify the £121 licence fee, which largely pays for its £3.6 billion annual budget. Over a thousand jobs could be moved to Manchester to escape expensive production costs in London and this is likely to involve Five Live, Sport and children's programming. Some media reports says that several BBC magazines, including the Radio Times - could also be sold off.

However, the broadcaster's plans are most likely to affect BBC Broadcast - its advertising and technical arm - and BBC Resources - which runs studios and provides costumes. Media reports say that these could be sold off or turned into joint ventures with commercial companies.

Thompson's plan will cut swaths of bureaucracy in order to deliver more spending on screen. However, individual job losses will be determined by BBC departments and the employees who are unsettled by Thompson’s announcement will be offered counselling.

As a result of this, private equity companies and media groups are preparing to bid for BBC Broadcast. Commercial partnerships will be sought for BBC Resources, which has about 1,000 staff, and operates studios and post-production units, said a media report. Additionally, news and current affairs will face a 15 per cent budget cut over the next two years but cash will be redirected towards programmes such as Panorama and Newsnight.

Reality programmes will be axed in favour of more ambitious drama, comedy, national sporting events and initiatives like BBC One’s children’s competition, Hard Spell.

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