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BBC News to cut 400 jobs in austerity drive

LONDON--The BBC said on Thursday that it will cut 415 jobs from its news department in the latest cost-cutting measures by the world's largest public broadcaster.

Director of News James Harding said the cuts were part of savings needed as a result of a freeze in the license fee, which all British households with a television must pay.

The cuts will save 48 million pounds (US$82 million) a year over the next two years and are part of a total of 800 million pounds in savings that began in 2010.

The British Broadcasting Corporation would restructure its news operations while increasing its investment in digital journalism, Harding said.

“It will be a testing time of uncertainty and change,” Harding was quoted by the BBC as telling staff in a briefing at its headquarters in London.

“The challenge is how to make BBC News even better, despite having less money.”

But he said the BBC would create 195 new posts in the news division as part of a restructuring plan, meaning an overall reduction of 220 full-time jobs.

Harding joined the BBC last August, having previously edited The Times newspaper, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News UK.

BBC News currently employs around 8,400 people, including some 5,000 journalists, the corporation said.

Changes as part of the restructuring include having more programs with single presenters on the BBC News Channel, merging some BBC News Channel and BBC World output, and having fewer staff in South Africa and Afghanistan.

There will also be savings in the production of programs such as the respected evening show Newsnight and the Panorama investigative series.

The two shows played a key role in uncovering a scandal over the late pedophile BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.

An original Newsnight investigation was dropped by the BBC and then Panorama reported on the reasons that the program was not shown. An official report ruled out a cover-up but criticized its handling of the affair.

But the budget for the BBC World Service, which broadcasts in various languages around the globe, will be increased by 5 million pounds to 250 million pounds.

The BBC took over funding for the World Service from the British Foreign Office in London in April 2014.

BBC workers are already set to go on strike on July 23 during the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland over pay and warned there could be more action over the layoffs.

The BBC also announced 2,000 job cuts in November 2011. A spokesman said that a review had since reduced the numbers to around 580.

In 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government froze the license fee for six years in 2010 as part of sweeping austerity measures to cut a record deficit.

The BBC receives 3.6 billion pounds a year from the license fee, which costs 45.50 pounds per household.

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