Britain’s national state TV broadcaster is looking at cutting its U.S. acquisition budget even further, especially for costly American films. BBC director-general Mark Thompson briefed senior managers last week about big cuts to programming budgets as he is grappling with what is in effect an 16% overall cut for the broadcaster. BBC1, the main channel, already shows fewer movies –- last year, the number of films it showed fell by 17% to 281. The Beeb has been criticised in the past for paying top dollar for movies like Harry Potter that have already been through every window, including pay TV. Other cuts being considered include drastically scaling back the number of show aired after 10:30 PM and scrapping all local radio shows apart from breakfast and drive-time.

In October, the BBC agreed to a six-year freeze to its licence fee, which brings in £3.5 billion ($5.6 billion) a year. On top of that, Thompson has agreed to take on funding £340 million of extra activities — including paying for the international World Service, which the government used to pay direct — and the broadcaster is preparing to pay £750 million into its pension fund to plug an estimated £1 billion deficit. Thompson wants to avoid another strike by journalists and TV presenters, who disrupted program schedules in November.

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