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'Accenture, CSC and Siemens... come on down'

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The BBC has named three companies shortlisted to buy its technology division, the UK broadcaster announced today. Accenture, CSC and Siemens have all made it through to final round of the bidding process to acquire BBC Technology in a deal worth around £2bn.

Whichever outfit finally gets the nod to acquire 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, 1,400 staff will be transferred to the new owner. A spokeswoman for Auntie said there would be no job losses as part of the deal.

The BBC reckons the outsourcing deal - with a "partner that will share its technology vision" - would save the broadcaster at least £20-£30m.

A final decision on which of the three will be selected to shell out around £2bn for BBC Technology should be made by the autumn, although it will need Government approval.

Said the Beeb's CTO, John Varney: "The shortlisted Bidders have shown their ability to invest in technology innovation and enable us to revolutionise the way we make programmes over the next ten years. They have also shown a cultural alignment with the BBC that is one of the most important parts of this contract. I am confident that these three companies meet our requirements in order to progress to the final stage."

Although the BBC management has said it will keep staff and union "fully informed" during the bid process, broadcasting union BECTU is known to be against the move. When the BBC announced last November of its plans to flog BBC Technology, the union said it would fight the move, claiming there was 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 the union. No-one from BECTU was available for comment today. But in a statement a fortnight ago BECTU said it would "now step up its efforts to keep BBC Technology in house, instead of being sold off a part of a £2bn procurement exercise in which the BBC plans to outsource all its IT, telephony, broadcast infrastructure and technical consulting services." ®

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