Beeb Hit By 24-Hour Strike

BBC Radio and TV schedules were hit hard when journalists and broadcast workers staged a strike to protest the world’s biggest public broadcaster’s plans to cut nearly 4,000 jobs.

The May 23 walkout – the first of four that are already planned – caused disruption across all channels as BBC News 24 and BBC World sent out programmes with the word “Recorded” appearing on the screen. BBC Radio Five Alive, a 24-hour news and sports round-up, was reduced to running repeats of the best listeners’ calls and old soccer fan phone-ins.

The 11,000 staff who downed tools included members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Bectu and Amicus broadcast unions. They’d voted heavily in favour of industrial action, winning a members’ poll with a more than 80 percent majority.

The corporation is planning to make annual savings of £355 million (US$663.37 million) and invest more on improving content.

News services quoted NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear as saying, “It will be a massive display of anger across the BBC at the scale of the impact of these cuts.

“Workers will give a clear demand that managers should start listening to their concerns. We have made it clear we will not accept cuts which decimate programmes, devalue the BBC, short-change licence fee payers, increase pressures on staff and worsen working conditions.”

The BBC has downplayed the effect of the stoppage and was reported to have hired strike-busting freelancers in order to keep at least some outside broadcasts on air.

The next stoppages are May 31 and June 1, with a fourth strike yet to be scheduled.

The BBC employs more than 27,000 people in Britain and around the world.

John Gammon