This week’s #jpod looks at the BBC strikes which have been held by members of the National Union of Journalists in recent weeks. Staff performed their second 24-hour walk-out in protest at compulsory redundancies at the broadcaster, this week.
According to the union, more than 100 people are at risk of losing their jobs at the BBC World Service and jobs are also said to be at risk in divisions including BBC Monitoring, BBC Scotland and potentially BBC Wales, BBC 4, BBC Sport and TV Current Affairs.
In this podcast we visit the picket lines to speak to journalists striking at a regional BBC outlet and hear their concerns, as well as Jonathan Lovett, father of the chapel for the NUJ at Tindle Newspapers in Enfield, to discuss the power of industrial action and how him and his colleagues won concessions from management.
BBC journalists in Brighton, hometown of Journalism.co.uk, are taking part in today’s nationwide strikes at the corporation over compulsory redundancies. Staff at BBC Radio Sussex formed a picket outside the station’s offices on Queen’s Road this morning (1 August) from 4am, leaving management to find non-union staff to present the station’s programmes.
The mid-morning show, which airs from 9am-12pm, was produced at the Sussex offices by stand-ins and broadcast simultaneously by BBC Kent Radio.
There are no compulsory redundancies proposed at BBC Sussex, but Paul Siegert, the NUJ rep for the region, told Journalism.co.uk this morning he feared that the implementation of BBC’s Delivering Quality First Strategy could lead to cuts at the station.
“We know that there is a thing that BBC management are looking at at the moment called DQF, which we call Destroying Quality Forever, which is going to mean that there will be 20 per cent cuts across the BBC, and so we are expecting that there will be job cuts in places like this if we don’t take action now.”
Danielle Glavin, Siegert’s deputy at the Sussex chapel and West Sussex reporter for the station, said: “We are just trying to protect the BBC, otherwise it will be desolated”.
John Lees, the station’s sports correspondent, was outside the BBC Sussex building at 4am this morning to begin the picket, about the time he would arrive for work. His part of the show was presented by another member of staff this morning. He said that no union members had crossed the picket line in Sussex, and that the staff were “standing firm” in today’s strike and in the indefinite work to rule beginning tomorrow.
“Either you’re an NUJ member or you’re not, and if you are you’ve got to support to strike. And we do.”
Also among the picketers was Kathy Caton, a World Service employee on a year’s attachment in Sussex. Caton is among those to have already been made compulsorily redundant, and would have been forced out of the BBC last month if she had still been working out of the World Service offices at Bush House, London. Because of her attachment to BBC Sussex, she has a stay of execution until next June.
She told Journalism.co.uk that there is “simply no fat to cut away” at the local station.
“Everything is done on such a tight ship, and to achieve the cuts that the BBC has planned means losing jobs, losing services and losing programmes.
“But there’s no slack here, people aren’t sitting around eating foie gras and swilling it down with champagne. It’s a tight ship.”
Caton will see out her attachment in Sussex until June next year, and then join the other World Service staff forced out by the cutbacks. The BBC intends to make 100 staff compulsorily redundant, out of a total of 387 job cuts across the World Service and BBC Monitoring.
She praised the World Service as “one of the finest things that the BBC is involved in”.
“What it produces versus its annual cost is extraordinary. To kill it off so fundamentally is something future generations will look back on and despair.”
The BBC has defended the need to make compulsory redundancies in order to achieve the savings set out by last year’s comprehensive spending review. Lucy Adams, the corporation’s director of business operations, said in a message to staff today that the corporation could not agree to the union’s demands for no compulsory redundancies.
“Following the cuts in central Government grants to the World Service and BBC Monitoring we have had to close 387 posts, meaning that regrettably there are nearly 100 staff who as a result are facing compulsory redundancy. We have been working with all these affected staff to ensure that they have opportunities for redeployment and retraining but we cannot and will not give preferential treatment to individuals depending on their union status.
“We hope the NUJ will realise that these issues are best solved at a local level, and a national strike that penalises all our audiences is not in the interests of their members, other BBC staff or licence fee payers.”
The BBC is to close its Religion and Ethics messageboards to new comments or threads later this month, with a new blog to be brought in later in the year.
Announcing the changes in a blog post commissioning editor for religion Aaqil Ahmed explained the cost of maintaining the messageboard “has become impossible to justify for a relatively small group of users”. The changes follow confirmation of a 25 per cent budget cut facing BBC Online.
We’ve had to make some tough decisions but I want to assure you that the decision to close our BBC Religion and Ethics messageboards was not taken lightly, as I know users have enjoyed being part of the varied discussions on the messageboards about all kinds of religious and ethical topics. However, the cost of maintaining this messageboard has become impossible to justify for a relatively small group of users. What’s more, as we’ve seen with the meteoric growth of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks – there are now many ways to interact and share information online.
Instead the site will launch a new BBC Religion and Ethics Blog later this year, which will be hosted by an expert editor, based in Salford and part of the BBC’s Religion and Ethics team.
We’ll host contributions from leading figures in politics, religion, news, ethics and the media. The blog will be a new way to take a topic further and find out more, whilst also offering you the chance to participate in a wider religious and ethical discussion.
The BBC Caribbean Service broadcast its last programme on Friday and on Saturday the BBC Russian Service went on air for the final time.
Both services have been broadcasting for seven decades but have been axed as part of BBC World Service cuts in an effort to save £46 million a year. Around 650 jobs are being lost as part of the 16 per cent budget cut and the World Service has estimated that the cuts will cost the service 30 million listeners.
In this BBC Russian Service broadcast, Gabriel Gatehouse, who, until recently was based in Baghdad and who started his career with the BBC Russian Service, looks back at the Russian service’s 65 year history.
As the BBC puts an end to its 65 years of traditional radio broadcasting in Russian, it is hosting a series of special programmes this week looking back at its journalism over the years.
This will include speaking to key members of the Russian media to share their views on the broadcaster, including the owner of the Independent, Alexander Lebedev and leading Russian journalists and writers.
The final programme will take place on Saturday (26 March) with the BBC Russian live weekend programme, Pyatiy Etazh (Fifth Floor).
The BBC started regular Russian-language broadcasts to the Soviet Union on 24 March 1946. Throughout the years, the BBC radio brought independent news and analysis to Russian-speaking audiences. In its special programming, BBC Russian looks again at the key stories it has covered – reporting the cold war and the perestroika, the attempted putsch of August 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the two Chechen wars and Beslan, the Russia-Georgia conflict and everything else that has mattered to its audiences in the region.
The BBC’s Russian output will continue on bbcrussian.com, where two radio programmes will be broadcast every Monday to Friday and one will be broadcast on Saturdays and Sundays.
Russian is one of seven radio programming languages which were proposed for closure as part of cuts to the World Service, along with Azeri, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese and Ukrainian, and Russian.
An opinion piece in today’s Independent recognises that the BBC has some tough decisions to make when it comes to finding ways to save money, but says that the corporation shouldn’t be immune to budget cuts.
No one could dispute that such reporting [of global news] is at the very core of the BBC’s public-service broadcasting remit. But savings are going to have to come from somewhere, and the BBC should be no more immune from the need to prioritise than any other organisation.
The BBC is currently undergoing the Delivering Quality First review to try to find ways of coping with no increase in the licence fee for the next five years.
Our reporter Rachel McAthy is at the protests outside the BBC World Service offices this afternoon. Members of the National Union of Journalists are demonstrating against budget cuts announced today at the service which will result in the loss of 650 jobs as well as the closure of numerous language services.
Listen below to Mike Workman, the chair of the BBC World Service branch of the NUJ, speaking at the protest:
The Trust’s report included reference to detailed plans to halve the number of ‘top level domains’ (TLDs), e.g. bbc.co.uk/xxx.
Following the announcement managing editor of BBC Online, Ian Hunter, has published a post on the BBC Internet blog outlining progress in the restructure so far, such as decisions on how best to manage legacy content from sites which have become out of date.
You can read more here, where Hunter also provides a useful link to a list of TLDs which are earmarked for closure before the end of the year.
The BBC plans to cut its online spending by a quarter and merge the World Service with BBC News in 2014 as part of cost cutting measures, director general Mark Thompson said in an interview with the Media Guardian.
According to a report by the Guardian, Thompson said he aims to save half a billion pounds a year “to ensure the public broadcaster can function within the terms of its recently agreed licence fee settlement”.
In an interview with Media Guardian, Thompson said he expects to make efficiency savings of £330m a year by slashing overheads – including cutting the cost of licence fee collection and targeting evaders of the £145.50 household levy.
The BBC will also cut a quarter from its online spending – currently running at £200m a year – and make unspecified but significant savings by merging the World Service with BBC News in 2014 because “however well-resourced the BBC is, we cannot afford to run two global news operations”.