BBC3 and BBC4 to stay on air



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BBC3 and BBC4 to stay on air

BBC3 has been criticise for over-reliance on repeats of the comedy series

The BBC Trust has ruled out the closure of one of the corporation's digital channels but has told management it must implement annual efficiencies of 3% over the next five years as it attempts to plug a £2bn funding hole.

The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, today presented proposals which are expected to lead to hundreds of job losses within the corporation to the trust.

There had been calls to close either BBC3 or BBC4, but these have been rejected.

A senior BBC source said trust members had told Mr Thompson they did not want to see a service closed to make up the shortfall and instead wanted to see efficiencies of 3% across the board from 2008-2009.

They also told Mr Thompson that the BBC must make less programming in a bid to better concentrate resources.

MR Thompson, who first put forward proposals to the trust to deal with the lower-than-expected licence fee settlement in June, will now go away and finalise his plans.

These will then be presented to the trust at its next monthly meeting in October, which is when final decisions will be made.

"There was a clear demand from the trust to management for a target of 3% annual efficiencies for five years from 2008/09," a source said.

"There are three broad ways this could be delivered - by cutting major services, making the most efficient use of programming across existing services or to produce less and reduce our volume of output.

"The trust has decided that closing a major service is not an option. The final plan next month in terms of meeting their firm target of efficiencies will be between the second and third options."

In effect, the plan will mean more repeats on the BBC's channels while the head count will also be cut as less programming will be made. Staff expect the London factual production centre to be hardest hit.

Sources have said the trust is determined to lead the debate on the future strategic direction of the BBC.

"The trust's job is to steer the strategic direction of the BBC and meet its six public purposes and the requirements of the [BBC] Charter," the source said.

"They want a BBC which is very much about being distinct and about quality. A reduction in the level of output is so that the money can be invested to really focus on the priorities and quality and areas where the audience have highlighted under-performance."

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