BBC London news coverage hit as staff stage 24-hour strike over local radio cuts
BBC London’s news coverage has been hit by disruption after around 1,000 journalists began a 24-hour strike over local radio cuts.
The action began at 11am on Wednesday on what marked a big day for news, as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced his Spring Budget and strikes rocked services across the UK.
A tweet from BBC London said there would be no London news bulletins on BBC One at 1.30pm, 6.30pm, and 10.30pm on Wednesday.
About 1,000 BBC Local journalists who are member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are believed to have walked out at 11am, bringing disruption to the corporation’s local TV and radio schedule in England.
— BBC London (@BBCLondonNews) March 15, 2023
Around 25 journalists left Broadcasting House in London just after 11am, chanting “save local radio” and “keep local radio local”.
Others held placards reading “stop the cuts” and “save local news”, while one homemade sign read “keep BBC radio local”.
Former Labour shadow chancellorJohn McDonnell, secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) cross-party parliamentary group, was among those on the picket line.
Mr McDonnell told the PA news agency: “These workers have been forced to strike and this isn’t about pay or anything like this.
“This is about maintaining their professional standards in the BBC and local journalism.
“We’ve got to get across to the BBC itself just how important this is because as soon as you start undermining one of the foundations of public service broadcasting like this, the whole edifice of the BBC comes under challenge.
“So these workers have been forced – they’ve tried every other negotiation with the BBC to make them see sense.”
Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said faith in BBC director-general Tim Davie is at an “all-time low” after the suspension and reinstatement of presenter Gary Lineker over tweets criticising the Government.
He added that BBC staff are “resigned to the long haul” and that “if we can’t get back around the negotiating table” the union would talk about other strike dates.
These include local election results day on May 5 “when local radio plays a massive part in explaining the results and being at counts across the country”, and the King’s coronation on May 6.
Susana Mendonca, a political reporter for BBC Radio London and its NUJ rep, told PA: “I know there are a lot of people out striking today for all sorts of different reasons but we’re not here striking about pay.
“We’re here striking because we believe in protecting that key pillar of public service broadcasting and we feel that this move away from the localism element of local radio will mean that our audiences don’t get properly served.”
The action comes in response to the BBC’s proposal in October that local radio stations share more content and broadcast less programming unique to their areas.
This would see local programming restricted before 2pm and afternoon programmes across England shared between its 39 local radio stations.
The NUJ previously said the plans would lead to a loss of posts and journalists having to re-apply for their own jobs.
Under the proposals, the broadcaster previously confirmed 48 jobs would be lost across local staffing in England.
Jason Horton, director of production for BBC Local, said on Wednesday in a blog post: “We’d like to apologise to our audience for the disruption that this action will cause to the BBC’s local TV and radio services in England.
“We will of course continue to engage with the trade union and do everything possible to minimise the impact on colleagues affected by our planned changes.
“We have assured teams working across our 39 BBC Local bases that we are maintaining overall investment and staffing levels in local services and we’re working hard to minimise the risk of compulsory redundancies.
“But change is essential. If our local services are to remain relevant in an increasingly online and on-demand world of live and increasing on-demand services, we must change.”
A BBC spokesman said the broadcaster had “tried to minimise disruption as much as possible”.
He added: “We are obviously disappointed that the strike has gone ahead. We have a plan to modernise local services across England, including more news journalists and a stronger local online service, which will see no overall reduction in staffing levels or local funding.
“Our goal is a local service across TV, radio and online that delivers even greater value to communities.
“We will continue to engage with the trade union and do everything possible to minimise the impact on staff.”