The former Conservative Party chairman and Hong Kong governor was speaking at BBC Scotland’s HQ at Pacific Quay in Glasgow, where the trust is spending two days discussing savings north of the Border.
Facing cuts of up to 20%, due in part to a freeze in the TV licence, it has been estimated up to 150 BBC jobs in Scotland could go, with high-profile programmes such as River City reported to be under threat.
Lord Patten dismissed fears for the soap’s future as “slightly far-fetched” but also confirmed there would “almost certainly” be more repeats on television.
Later, during a question and answer session attended by the BBC Trust chairman, BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie told staff: “We have no plans to cut River City, I can make that absolutely clear.”
Lord Patten said the BBC would emerge from the current round of cuts smaller and more efficient but added he hoped more drama would be made in Scotland.
He told The Herald: “It’s tough, and alas some people will lose their jobs, so you cannot make light of it. But it’s not the end of the world; this isn’t the slaughter of the first-born.
“There are some real jewels in the crown which we have got to preserve but we’re not going to be able to do everything, as we’ve had to show already. We had to reach a deal with Sky over broadcasting Formula 1 -- we just couldn’t afford to do it ourselves.
“So we will have to make some changes. We won’t be able to spend quite as much money on entertainment but I hope we’ll be able to preserve the very best quality in news, dramas, children’s (programmes), the presentation of national events, and service to the nations and regions, because we’re the only people doing that.”
Lord Patten said speculation about where the axe would fall was premature as no final decisions would be made until early next year.
On River City and rumours it will no longer be shown year-round, he said: “I’m sure BBC executives in Scotland will have noted the huge enthusiasm shown for River City. It’s clearly a very popular programme and I’m delighted we have programmes as popular as that.”
On whether the cuts might impact on coverage of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, he said it was not easy for him to talk about particular programmes or events.
However, he added: “I’m sure at the moment our sports department is focused most on the Olympics.
“But they’re well aware of the Commonwealth Games just around the corner and would want to be doing a terrific job in reporting them.”
Discussing the inevitability of the BBC’s financial situation, Lord Patten added: “It’s pretty well the first time in the BBC’s history it has had to accept a lower-than-inflation settlement.
“It has a settlement through to 2016/17 but it flatlines. At the same time the BBC is having to take on additional responsibilities, like the World Service from 2014. Put that all together and it involves a cut in the budget of about 16%.
“But if you want to find money to reinvest in things that are going well, you’ve got to pitch for higher than that, so we’ve looked for savings of about 20%, and then some re-investment into the BBC.
“I don’t think we can grumble too much: everybody is having to pull in their belt.
“It should be possible to run a very good public service broadcaster on £3.5 billion we don’t have to raise ourselves. The licence fee payer hands over £145.50 a year and I think it’s good value for money.”