The BBC's news operation will have its budget slashed by more than £100m over the next six years as the corporation seeks big savings to meet a £2bn funding shortfall, it will be announced this week.
Around 450 jobs will be lost from the 2,000-strong news department as part of a plan to axe more than 2,000 posts from the BBC's 23,000 workforce, which will be outlined by director-general Mark Thompson on Thursday. The cuts are likely to prompt industrial action, with some programmes being taken off air.
The BBC's rolling news channel, News 24, will be merged with its main domestic bulletins, including the 10 O'Clock News, with a smaller staff producing all TV news. Flagship programmes such as Today and Newsnight will retain their own teams but will be forced to shed jobs. Current affairs, whose programmes include Panorama, will be badly hit, with around 15 per cent of jobs going.
Thompson has been forced to push through a wave of cuts, the second since he became director-general in May 2004, after being handed a lower than expected licence fee. The £135.50 charge will rise by less than the rate of inflation towards the end of the decade. He is expected to announce that about 10 per cent of the BBC's staff will leave, but the figures for news, current affairs and factual programming, the department that makes popular 'lifestyle' shows and documentaries, are thought to be far higher.
Last night a spokesman for broadcasting union Bectu warned: 'The effect on news is likely to be drastic.'
Unions, including the National Union of Journalists, are due to meet BBC management early on Thursday and will want to see staff redeployed where possible. 'If they don't agree, there will be strikes,' the Bectu spokesman said.
Thompson is under pressure after a series of scandals at the BBC, which included fake phone-ins at shows including Blue Peter. It was fined £50,000 by media regulator Ofcom.
A programme trailer that wrongly claimed the Queen stormed out of a photoshoot has also seen the resignation of BBC1 controller Peter Fincham.