BBC journalists will vote on taking industrial action over corporation’s plans to cut local radio services that threatens up to 50 jobs
- Disquiet growing at BBC England’s local radio stations over plans to cut shows
- Management previously proposed ‘drastic cuts’ to local radio programming
BBC journalists could go on strike in protest over proposals to cut local radio programming in a move that could result in up to 50 job losses.
Journalists’ union members at BBC England voted overwhelmingly to reject revised proposals to cut the corporation’s local radio programming after 2pm on weekdays and for most of the weekend.
As a result, industrial action will be put to members in a formal ballot.
BBC region’s National Union for Journalists (NUJ) representatives said their ‘members clearly stand by the principle that we should #KeepBBCLocalRadioLocal – & we’ve been left with no choice but to ballot’.
BBC journalists could go on strike in protest over proposals to cut local radio programming in a move that could result in up to 50 job losses. Stock image: BBC Yorkshire Studios
Union members at BBC England will vote on whether to take strike action after a vote ‘overwhelmingly’ rejected revised proposals to cut local radio programming
BBC management have proposed ‘drastic cuts’ to local radio programming (pictured: New Broadcasting House in central London)
Disquiet has been growing among BBC England staff in its regional offices following ‘drastic cuts’ to local radio programming proposed by management.
Under original plans, programmes would be shared between its 39 local radio stations after 2pm on weekday afternoons and evenings, and for the whole weekend except for sports programmes.
On Sunday afternoons and evening only one national programmes would be aired.
But a backlash from staff and audiences resulted in BBC bosses watering down some of its plans to merge local radio shows.
The revised plans would mean the number of weekend morning programmes increasing from 12 to 18 and the number of weekday afternoon programmes going up from 18 to 20.
During weekday afternoons no station would share with more than two others and the vast majority with just one.
The NUJ said the plans ‘would have resulted in the loss of about 48 posts’, but due to the number of staff applying for voluntary redundancy there would be no forced job losses.
Last year, the BBC announced plans proposals to end the BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast Show and its daily news bulletins, resulting in 36 job losses. Pictured: BBC Radio Foyle in Derry
They added the would ballot for strike action ‘if there are any compulsory redundancies’.
Despite the concessions, NUJ members voted to reject the revised proposals, with a no vote leading towards a ballot for industrial action.
READ MORE: BBC waters down plans to merge local radio shows after critical ‘feedback’ from licence fee-payers and staff
Meanwhile, BBC union members in Northern Ireland will also vote in a another consultative ballot for industrial action over the corporation’s proposal to close 36 posts across the province and end the popular BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast Show.
Last year, the BBC announced ‘devastating’ proposals to end the BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast Show and its daily news bulletins, resulting in 36 job losses.
A petition has been launched to save Radio Foyle, while the mayor of Derry wrote to BBC chairman Richard Sharp to stress the importance of the local radio station for the community.
Defending the importance of local radio, Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said: ‘Local radio is one of the jewels in the BBC’s crown and that all 39 stations should continue in their current form and be properly funded.
‘They are listened to by 5.7 million people a week because of their localness. When you start sharing with other stations then local radio stops being local.’
Last September, it was announced that 382 jobs at World Service will be cut as part of the plans to become a digital-led broadcaster.
Regional TV news programmes in Oxford and Cambridge were also among the services being scrapped – merging with the BBC’s Southampton and Norwich operations.
Tim Davie, who took over from Lord Tony Hall as director-general in September 2020, has overseen a slimming down of the corporation since starting in the role.
A BBC spokesperson said: ‘Our goal over the next 12 months is to modernise our BBC Local services in England to strengthen our online provision for communities across the country.
‘We have listened carefully to the feedback we have received about proposed changes to BBC Local Radio programming.
‘As a result, we are making a number of amendments to the original plan in order to strike the best possible balance between live and on-demand services.’
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