The BBC has unveiled plans for a "smaller but fitter" corporation that will see almost 2,000 jobs cut and a reduction in original programming.

Director general Mark Thompson told staff that every department of the BBC would be required to make efficiency savings under the six-year plan.

The "radical" blueprint, approved yesterday by the BBC Trust, says that a net amount of 1,800 positions will be closed by 2013, mostly in news and factual areas.

There will also be a ten per cent reduction in the amount of original programmes, despite the BBC pledging to cut down on primetime repeats.

And the iconic BBC Television Centre is also due to be sold off to help address the £2 billion shortfall that emerged after the licence fee settlement was renegotiated by the government.

"Media is transforming," Mr Thompson told staff today. "Audiences are transforming. It would be easy to say that the sheer pace of this revolution is too fast for the BBC.

"I think we can see both here and around the world the price you pay for taking what looks like the safe option.

"I've devoted almost my whole working life to the BBC, much of that not as a suit but as a rank-and-file programme-maker. I love the BBC and what it stands for. I care too much to see it drift steadily into irrelevance."

Mr Thompson also revealed plans to merge the corporation's disparate newsrooms into a "world-class" multimedia centre.

In conclusion he added that his plan would create "a smaller BBC, but one which packs a bigger punch because it is more focused on quality and the content that really makes a difference to audiences".

Broadcasting union officials have warned that strike action is inevitable if the BBC requests voluntary redundancies.

Commenting on the BBC restructuring, shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Public organisations should seek efficiency savings just like any other organisation - indeed a compulsory licence fee gives the BBC a special responsibility to spend its money carefully.

"No one is immune to change, but people will be watching carefully to ensure the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater."

18/10/2007 16:26:47