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Wednesday, March 29, 2023
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BBC journalists strike to defend local news

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members working at BBC Radio Shropshire and across England for BBC Local began a 24-hour strike at 11am this morning.

Local NUJ members on the picket line outside BBC Radio Shropshire earlier today. Photo: Elaine Muir
Local NUJ members on the picket line outside BBC Radio Shropshire earlier today. Photo: Elaine Muir

Journalists in radio, tv, and online are taking part in strike action as part of an ongoing dispute over the BBC’s plans to cut local radio. Over 5.7 million listeners tune in each week to hear valued content relevant to their communities, but proposals by the broadcaster will see local output reduced with only 40 hours of guaranteed weekly programming.

Over 83 per cent of balloted NUJ members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.

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The union has been engaged in discussions with the BBC, urging a rethink on what they say are damaging cuts to local radio.

Elaine Muir, BBC Shropshire NUJ chapel representative, said: “This isn’t about pay or even jobs – we are taking this action to try and save as much local Shropshire specific output as possible. It matters to us, and it matters to our listeners and we believe it’s worth fighting for… after all what is BBC Local Radio if it’s not Local? We understand the need to improve the BBC’s digital offer and are willing to work to achieve that but we think it can be done without cutting so much local radio output.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“Staff are striking this week as a last resort – they are under no illusion that the BBC’s plans will undermine already hollowed out local radio content across England. It’s not simply a question about jobs and conditions for our members – they believe passionately in the value that quality local content brings to their audiences, journalism that is trusted and relied upon in the communities they serve. The BBC’s raiding of local radio budgets to fund its Digital First strategy is wrongheaded and risks undermining a vital part of our public service broadcasting. People want local relevant news that is accessible, and that should remain a core part of the breadth of BBC output.”

Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting officer, said:

“Plans by the BBC to cut local radio services will have a lasting impact on journalists and listeners who rely on services each week for the breadth of programmes produced. This is the biggest shake-up for several decades and runs contrary to the BBC’s own claims of valuing local services. Members on strike this week want the BBC to present a solution that can resolve this dispute and prevent widespread cuts.”

BBC Proposals

The BBC is proposing that all 39 local radio stations in England would keep their weekday morning programmes between 6am and 2pm, but then share 20 afternoon weekday shows, after 6pm there would be 20 shows shared and an all-England programme after 10pm. Weekend output would also see changes.

Local news bulletins and live sports programming will be maintained.

A BBC spokesperson said: “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.”

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