Five to lose nearly a quarter of its staff

RTL-owned broadcaster to streamline its operations

LONDON -- Five chief executive Dawn Airey said Thursday that the RTL-owned broadcaster could lose as many as 84 of its 354 staffers under plans to integrate and streamline its operations.

The announcement, the latest stage in an ongoing business review, will result in flatter management structures and see several key departments merged into a creative unit and a legal and commercial affairs division.

Five already has implemented a stringent cost-cutting program across its main channel and digital nets Five U.S. and Five Life with the aim of freeing up funds to allow it to focus on core primetime slots.

"I am confident we are putting in place a new, streamlined structure which will ensure we remain the most agile and effective commercial broadcaster in the country," Airey said. "Unfortunately, the restructure raises the prospect of some positions being made redundant."

U.K. commercial broadcasters have been hit hard by the relentlessly downbeat advertising market, which is forecast to be down 15%-20% over the next three months, and some fear that could extend to the end of the year.

On Wednesday, Five's bigger commercial rival ITV announced it was slashing 600 jobs and shifting away from drama and would put more cost-effective entertainment into primetime slots.