BBC face mutiny by top news staff over planned £2 billion budget cuts

Last updated at 09:22 05 October 2007

The BBC is facing a mutiny from some of the most senior names in its news division over planned radical budget cuts.

Today presenter James Naughtie, Newsnight host Gavin Esler and the editors of the Today programme, the Six O'Clock News and Radio 4's World At One have all signed their names to an open letter warning against the "salami slicing" of budgets.

It is a desperate last plea to safeguard the future of BBC News, addressed to BBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons before he pronounces his judgment on the management plans this month.

The budget-slashing strategy has been devised to deal with a £2 billion funding shortfall after the BBC received a lower-than-expected licence fee increase from the Government.

Proposals include merging the TV, radio and online newsrooms, which will face five per cent annual cuts.

Newsnight is likely to see four per cent annual cuts.

The letter expressed the signatories' "dismay at the budget cuts that are being proposed by management".

It goes on: "We believe the cuts as outlined would make it impossible for us to maintain the editorial standards for which BBC News is famous.

"The 'salami slicing' of budgets across the division will inevitably damage the quality, range and authority of news programmes across television, radio and online.

"BBC News is considered by the public to be the most important service the corporation provides.

"We urge you to safeguard it and reject these proposals."

Other signatories to the letter include News 24 presenters Sally Nugent, John Andrew, Adam Brimelow, Jane Dreaper and Rory McLean and the former head of the BBC Baghdad bureau Malcolm Downing.

It emerged this month that BBC News staff may have to write a 200-word letter on why they should be allowed to keep their jobs.

The BBC Trust is expected to make its decision on 17 October with director general Mark Thompson pencilled in to address all staff the following morning.

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