BBC plans to cut costs on lunchtime TV and online news

LONDON – The BBC is holding talks about replacing the 1pm news bulletin with a feed from its 24-hour news channel and cutting jobs on the online news desk to reduce costs.

The move is part of the "value for money" review being carried out in the run-up to the 2006 Royal Charter renewal, according to reports.

Cutting back the 1pm news bulletin, currently fronted by Anna Ford and Darren Jordan, would save the corporation millions because it is not considered a necessity to have a fully staffed editorial desk for a lunchtime bulletin when a feed from News 24, the 24-hour channel, would suffice.

Ford and Jordan are not expected to lose their jobs because they would be integrated into the new bulletin.

The BBC's online news operation, which currently has more than 200 staff, is another area BBC bosses are considering scaling back. According to insiders, the corporation's digital arm could work just as well with fewer members of staff.

The BBC played down the reports and a spokeswoman said no decisions have been made.

"Reviews are ongoing across the BBC, but no decisions have been taken," the spokeswoman said.

The BBC is expected to reveal the full details of the "value for money" review in December this year.

The review is considered an integral part of the BBC charter renewal plans for 2006 when the government will decide whether to renew the licence fee for a further 10 years.

In a boost to the BBC, culture secretary Tessa Jowell gave her clearest signal yet that the licence fee would remain in place.

"I think the licence fee stands a very good chance of continuing to be the way of funding the BBC," she told The Independent today, adding that she would be willing to bet a fiver on the fee staying.

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