BBC drops programmes as third of staff join strike

Monday, May 23, 2005


The staff of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have entered a one-day strike this morning in dispute of impending job cuts and partial privatisation.

The industrial action follows union ballots at three of the leaders of journalism and broadcasting: Amicus, National Union of Jounalists and BECTU. The NUJ have already described the action as an "astonishing success" and its general secretary, Jeremy Dear, describes the union as "absolutely delighted with the level of support we have received for the strike." The unions expect 11,000 of 27,000 BBC staff to take part in the strikes.

Due to the extensiveness of the strike it has affected the output of the BBC on its television and radio services. News and live services have been particularly badly affected following the unions aims to leave "blank screens and dead air".

Staff joining the strike at the regional Broadcasting House in Bristol.

BBC Radio 4's Today, The World at One, PM and The World Tonight have all been cancelled; BBC One's 1 O'Clock News and 6 O'Clock News was shortened from half an hour to 15 minutes, although the 10 O'Clock News was unaffected. Live programming of BBC News 24, BBC World and Five Live have been extensively cut; and international output on the World Service has been impacted.

The most noticeable impact have been on the Breakfast programme, headed by just one presenter (against the usual two) and cut short for a pre-recorded interview. The leading serious news magazine programme, Newsnight, was also cancelled.

Some BBC radio celebrities appeared for work on their shows despite the strike. These include breakfast radio presenters Chris Moyles of BBC Radio 1, Terry Wogan of BBC Radio 2, and Shelagh Fogarty of BBC Radio 5.

Unlike a similar 1989 strike in which presenter Nicholas Witchell crossed the pickets to read news, those presenters who have decided to continue their positions have not been publicly denounced.

Striking staff have been picketing outside the main entrances of the BBC Television Centre in west London.

The strikes have occurred following the Corporation's plans to cut 3780 jobs and privatise parts of the national service. It has claimed that these cuts are necessary to spend more on programming when they were announced in March by governing director Mark Thompson. The cuts aim to make savings of GBP 355 million (US$663.37 million, EUR 487 million ).

Unions have defied calls by BBC executives to partake in consultations over impending actions. The unions have responded by claiming that consultations would give their staff little say and that negotiations are the only way in which they will be listened to.

The ballot to strike which was held on May 12 also determined to strike for 48 hours on May 31 and June 1. It is unclear if any further action is planned.