Blood-bath at the Beeb

| Tue Mar. 22, 2005 12:50 PM EST

These are dark days for the BBC. Yesterday more than 2,000 staffers in production and broadcasting (meaning news, sport, and drama) heard they're getting the boot. This comes on top of 1,700 business-side layoffs announced a couple of weeks ago. By the time Mark Thompson, the newish director general (the last one, you'll remember, quit over that dodgy WMD story) gets done swinging the meat axe, the BBC will be about 6,000 people lighter.

No doubt there's a lot of fat to trim at the Beeb, which, while indispensable on so many counts, is a big, unwieldy bureaucracy -- and one, moreover, that subsists on taxpayer money. If Thompson is as good as his word and the money saved will go into new and better programming, all to the good. But we'll see.

Then again, lately the BBC is finding it can't even spend the money it wants to spend. Ricky Gervais, the man behind "The Office" (the best, and most painful, thing to come out of the BBC in years) just turned down a $10 million deal with the corporation, saying, sublimely, that such arrangements encourage "laziness and extravagance" and that, anyway, he didn't want to be the BBC's "bitch."

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