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BBC Gloucestershire journalists on two-day strike over radio cuts

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Journalists based at BBC Gloucestershire have staged a strike in a dispute over cuts to local radio services.

More than 80 per cent of members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) across England backed the walkout, which will include staff from BBC Radio Gloucestershire and BBC Points West.

The strike, today and tomorrow – comes as NUJ members across England have passed a vote of no confidence in the BBC Local Senior Leadership Team. 93 per cent of those polled said they didn’t back the current managers, after months of frustration over proposed changes to programmes.

Under the plans, BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s weekday afternoon show would also be shared with Wiltshire. Evening and weekend programming would be either be regional or even national, with the exception of news bulletins and sports coverage.

Paul Siegert, the NUJ’s Broadcasting Organiser, said: “Members have shared their disappointment over the treatment of colleagues who have had to reapply for their jobs. Results of the (no confidence) vote indicate the strength of many journalists, alongside frustrations about the BBC’s handling of the dispute, Members want to avoid strike action and remain doing the jobs they love. The NUJ is urging the BBC to reconsider its plans that will leave a lasting impact on Local Radio.”

Paul Furley, NUJ Rep for BBC Gloucestershire added: “We are fighting for the services that we provide for our audiences. The BBC wants to move some of its existing budget to make more digital content. We absolutely agree that a greater digital presence is needed, but we don’t agree that this should mean cutting parts of the existing BBC Local Radio & Regional TV budgets. Those services are loved by audiences, who are set to lose out and risk being alienated. The BBC should be looking to cut red tape to make doing digital easier alongside existing services, providing a properly funded local news service and ensuring that the Government provides a stable funding model for this to happen.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We understand this is a difficult period of change for many colleagues and we will continue to support everyone affected by the plans to strengthen our local online services across news and audio.

“Our goal is to deliver a local service across TV, radio and online that offers more value to more people in more local communities.

“While the plans do impact on individual roles, we are maintaining our overall investment in local services and expect our overall level of editorial staffing across England to remain unchanged.”

The NUJ is not the only ones calling for a rethink of the plans.

  • In a series of blog posts, Boom Radio founder David Lloyd concluded: “The BBC is excellent at thinking of itself – rather than the listeners. That’s another of the BBC Values ignored. Audiences are not at the heart of everything they do. If they were, they should not be so daft as this.”
  • Rolling Stone legend Ronnie Wood lent his support to the NUJ’s campaign to #KeepBBCLocalRadioLocal
  • Cross party MPs in the Humber region and Derbyshire said the BBC was making a mistake. Amanda Solloway MP commented : “I know that a local BBC presence is valued all year round, especially in times of local crisis – from weather emergencies to the COVID pandemic and elections. These are times when radio can never be replaced.
  • Former Radio Nottingham and Radio Leicester Editor Dr Liam McCarthy wrote a paper for the Director General Tim Davie warning that the cuts would see a decline in audience figures. He said “The only people who can stop this are members of the BBC Executive Board –  this is where the fight needs to go next as in England none of the BBC managers are listening.”
  • After a number of presenter departures, the former controller of BBC Local Radio Andy Griffee tweeted a series of messages, calling the cuts “an unforced self harm initiative in which [management] abandons localness in core hours and turns its back on radio audiences.”

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