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1,400 staff face uncertain future

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The BBC is to flog its wholly-owned commercial subsidiary - BBC Technology Ltd - in a bid to save the corporation up to £30 million a year.

The sale - which still needs Government approval - could be worth around £100 million to the Beeb and if given the go-ahead, is expected to be completed by autumn next year.

Some 1,400 staff will transfer to BBC Technology's new owner.

The UK's publicly-funded broadcaster said that if it didn't sell the business it would be forced to make "substantial job losses" (300 according to one estimate) to make the numbers add up.

Whichever outfit buys BBC Technology is expected to provide technology support to the Beeb - including broadcast technology services, desktop support, Web hosting etc - for the next ten years as part of the deal.

In an email to staff, BBC boss Greg Dyke insisted that employees would not lose out over the sell-off.

Said Mr Dyke: "I can give you my assurance that we will make employment terms a priority and future pension arrangements will be an important issue for the BBC during the commercial negotiations."

However, staff were stunned by today's news. One insider told The Register: "We're absolutely devastated by the news. We don't want to be swallowed up by a big IT company like IBM or EDS."

And broadcasting union BECTU said it will fight the move, claiming there is no evidence that a private company could save the Beeb any cash. The union also expressed concern about the risk posed to the BBC by handing control of its communication and IT networks over to a private company.

"Worse than selling the family silver, they're trying to give away the BBC's entire nervous system", said one union official.

News of the sale coincided with confirmation that Roger Flynn, chief exec of BBC Ventures Group (which includes BBC Technology) is to quit his job next spring. ®

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