BBC boss Mark Thompson assures MSPs over Scotland cuts

BBC director general Mark Thompson has said job cuts at the corporation should not affect coverage of big stories like the Scottish independence referendum.

He also said reductions may be looked at again, if there are public concerns about a drop in quality.

Mr Thompson's comments came as he appeared before the Scottish Parliament's culture committee.

The broadcaster is set to lose up to 120 posts at BBC Scotland by 2017 in a push to reduce its budget by 16%.

It is expected to save about £16.1m under the BBC's Delivering Quality First scheme, which has now been rubber-stamped by the BBC Trust.

The BBC has committed itself to saving billions of pounds from its budget after the annual licence fee was frozen at £145.50 for six years.

Earlier this month, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said she had "grave reservations" about the potential impact of Delivering Quality First on BBC Scotland.

Under questioning from the cross-party committee, Mr Thompson said: "The most important thing of all is making sure that the programmes and services we offer the Scottish public are as good as they possibly can be.

"I think it's completely reasonable to say, if we can make productivity savings and if we can adjust the way we spend money and still deliver as good or better services, we should do that.

"As we make our changes, quarter by quarter, we'll ask the public for their view about the services. If we think that anything we're doing is leading to a diminution in quality, we will have to sit back and think again."

Mr Thompson, who is leaving the BBC in the autumn, went on to say the referendum, which the Scottish government wants to hold in autumn 2014, was a "gigantic" story.

"To me, it's a massive Scottish event and a massive UK event," he said, adding: "It goes to the heart of the destiny of Scotland as a nation and it goes to the heart of the destiny of the United Kingdom and will be of very considerable interest to our audiences across the UK and around the world.

"This is one of the biggest things the BBC will ever do anywhere - it's a story of immense interest and importance."

Mr Thompson said coverage of the referendum would need "very substantial" resources and the BBC would be telling the story around the world in at least 30 languages.

He went on: "One of the issues that we're working through right now is the obvious point, which is that we're going to need the right level of journalistic effort, both in Scotland and at UK level, and we want to make sure we're thinking about that carefully now, as we're making staff reductions, so we don't end up, as it were, having to re-hire people for this very big event.

"It will be one of the largest domestic stories the BBC has covered in recent years and will be properly resourced."

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