Britain's iconic state-funded broadcaster, the BBC, has ended weeks of well-informed speculation by announcing plans to axe around 2,900 jobs over three years as part of its "transformation".

The jobs cuts, mainly from non-programming areas, will save around £320 million ($622m; €463m) a year, which new director general Mark Thompson says will be ploughed into programme making. He wants the broadcaster to spend "less on process and more on content".

Other savings will come from the move of around 1,800 staff in six departments to Britain's second city, Manchester, in 2009.

The corporation will also focus on raising its profile in overseas entertainment and is considering a global TV children's channel in partnership with another company. Says BBC chief operating officer John Smith: "We think the brand will sell."

The corporation is overhauling its spending as it prepares for the renewal of its Royal Charter (the structure under which it operates) in 2007, a process that also involves a review of the licence fee through which it is funded.

The three trade unions representing BBC employees are predictably outraged and have vowed to take industrial action in the defence of the threatened jobs.

They declare in a joint statement: "Far from preparing the BBC for charter renewal ... a policy which requires such colossal job cuts, reductions in programme commitments, and the sale and privatisation of core sections of the BBC, risks destroying its ability to continue as the UK's leading public service broadcaster, and poses a substantial risk to the BBC's continuing right to the licence fee."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff