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Strikes loom as BBC sharpens axe

Thompson to pinkslip 1,800 staff

BBC toppers and employees are predicting a spate of strikes before Christmas as director general Mark Thompson prepares to announce plans to pinkslip 2,800 staffers.

“The chances of industrial action are high,” a BBC insider said. “The journalists union is furious at what is expected to be several hundred compulsory redundancies in news,” the insider added.

“Above all these are cuts that will compromise quality, which can’t be good for license payers or staff,” journalists union leader Jeremy Dear said in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program.

The BBC restructuring is designed to plug a £2 billion ($4 billion) funding gap. But while 2,800 jobs will be cut, another 1,000, principally in new media, are likely to be created.

The funding shortfall emerged in January, when the British government failed to give Thompson the extra money he asked for as part of a hike to the BBC license fee, payable by all TV-watching homes in the U.K.

Thompson’s blueprint for the next six years (the term covered by the new license fee) will be announced today, but leaks indicate heavy pinkslipping in news, factual and children’s departments.

News supremo Peter Horrocks is expected to lead a newly merged news division that will abolish separate newsrooms for TV, radio and online.

In television, factual shows — a genre in which BBC inhouse producers have already been hit hard as more work is farmed out to indies — are expected to be affected.

The upshot is that auds will see more repeats on the screen as Thompson adopts a policy of making “fewer, but better” programs.

Another casualty of the Thompson master plan, which comes as the BBC attempts to rebuild credibility following a summer of scandals involving viewer deception, is understood to be the Beeb’s iconic West London HQ Television Center.

Known as “the concrete doughnut,” the building, worth an estimated $600 million, looks likely to be sold off as the Beeb redevelops Broadcasting House in central London.

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