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BBC criticised over jobs cuts in favour of 'unjustified' channels

LONDON - The BBC has been criticised by John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee, for opting to make around 2,500 job cuts instead of pulling the plug on 'unjustified' channels such as BBC Three.

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BBC management has been criticised by the Tory MP Whittingdale for saving the likes of digital channel BBC Three, which has broadcast shows such as 'Fuck Off, I'm Fat', 'Celebrity Scissorhands', and 'Tittybangbang', in favour of axing around 2,500 jobs to save the broadcaster £2bn over the next six years, following the corporation's less than expected government licence fee settlement.

Whittingdale made the comments prior to the publication of today's government report by the culture, media and sport select committee, and said the corporation's management was "too quick to dismiss" the chance of reducing the amount of new digital channels it had introduced, adding the creation of the likes of BBC Three "had not yet wholly been justified".

It is not the first time calls have been made to ditch the digital channel BBC Three. In August BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons did not rule out the possibility of closing down either digital channel BBC Three or BBC Four. However, such a measure is seen as drastic and is opposed by senior BBC management.

Last month, Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, said the corporation would be shedding around 2,500 jobs across its news and current affairs output, which will be offset by the creation of around 600 to 700 new roles elsewhere.

The BBC received sustained pressure in the run up to its strategic review from MPs and its own broadcasters, including John Humphreys, who said that under watched programmes and channels should be axed in favour of redundancies.

Whittingdale said: "I think [BBC management] were too quick to dismiss the option of reducing the number of channels. The case for the BBC having as many channels as it does at present has not yet been wholly justified."

BBC Three has attracted a mixed response since launching in February 2003. 'Doctor Who' spin-off series 'Torchwood' garnered the channel its largest audience to date in October 2006 with 2.3m viewers -- the most for any digital channel at the time -- but it has also been criticised for its controversial output, which has included 'My Penis and Everyone Else's', 'I Love Being HIV' and 'Fuck Off, I'm a Hairy Woman'.

The channel also airs future episodes of shows that appear on its main terrestrial channels such as 'Spooks'.

The culture, media and sport report has also called for BBC public money to be reallocated and used by rival commercial channels for the purpose of creating other public service content such as children's TV and regional programmes.

The committee's report also noted that the corporation should scale back its cookery, game show and lifestyle output to focus on other areas.

The report said: "Given the substantial provision of public service content by other broadcasters, we believe that the BBC could deliver its public service remit without providing all of its current range of services."

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