BBC unions set for strike over pending job cuts

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LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) The British Broadcasting Corporation could be hit by strike action in the run up to Christmas, unions said today, incensed over an expected announcement of thousands of job cuts.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson was meeting today with the BBC Trust, which oversees the broadcaster, to finalise plans to cut jobs following a lower-than-expected licence fee settlement with the government earlier this year.

He will outline his plans to staff tomiorrow.

The unions have said they expect around 2,800 positions to go, although around 1,000 new posts could be created. More than 500 jobs are expected to go from the corporation's respected newsrooms while factual departments will also be hit.

Thompson has said the BBC must become slimmer and concentrate on the quality rather than quantity of programmes but staff and unions fear its output will suffer.

Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said he expected unions to ballot for strike action after the jobs announcement and said strikes could hit in the run up to Christmas.

The corporation last went on strike in 2005 when staff walked out for 24 hours to protest plans to cut almost 4,000 jobs.

On that occasion, instead of the agenda-setting ''Today'' programme on BBC Radio 4, listeners woke up to a selection of jazz records and a documentary on engineering marvels.

Reuters PD GC1755

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