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BBC forced to deny job-cuts report

Britain's publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC, was forced on Wednesday to shoot down a report that it is planning to lay off up to half its 28,000 staff.
/ Source: Reuters

Britain's publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC, was forced on Wednesday to shoot down a report that it is planning to lay off up to half its 28,000 staff.

London's Evening Standard newspaper cited "insiders" and "high-ranking sources" as saying that previous estimates of 6,000 job cuts "may turn out to be a wild underestimate."

BBC Director General Mark Thompson responded in an e-mail to staff.

"Inevitably, staff numbers are one of the issues we are looking at in the context of (the BBC's internal review) Value for Money but the idea that anyone anywhere in the BBC is seriously suggesting making half the BBC redundant is simply preposterous," he wrote.

"I haven't seen any firm recommendations from the (Value for Money) review yet, so anything you read in the papers is pure speculation in any event," Thompson added.

A BBC spokesman dismissed persistent media speculation about the size and timing of job cuts, saying no decisions had been made and that four parallel reviews — into the BBC's commercial operations, whether it provides value for money, how it commissions programming, and where in Britain its offices are located — are not yet complete.

"What's happened is all of these reviews are working in isolation. None of them has reported to the director general, much less to the board of governors," the spokesman said.

The BBC has already indicated it plans to move at least 1,500 jobs out of London in an attempt to bolster regional diversity, most of them to Manchester.

The BBC's internal reviews come as the broadcaster's 10-year governing charter is under review by parliament, and as the corporation recovers from the worst crisis in its history over its reporting in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Director General Greg Dyke and Chairman Gavyn Davies were forced to resign after a damning judicial review of a BBC news report that the government "sexed up" evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.