BBC Journalist Strike

BBC Broadcasting House

As I write today, the first edition of Tony Blackburn’s Pick of the Pops has just come off the air.

But there are many programmes which never went on air in the first place over the last two days.

That’s because members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are taking part in the first of two 48-hour strikes, which will end at 23:59 tonight. The dispute is over changes to the BBC’s pension scheme.

So what impact did this have?

  • BBC Radio 2: There was no Moira Stuart on Friday morning, and on both Friday and Saturday morning there were no news bulletins at 5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30.
  • BBC Radio 3: There was no Radio 3 Breakfast on Friday morning – that was replaced by Composer of the Week.
  • BBC Radio 4: Friday’s Today programme was taken off the air. That was replaced by some pre-recorded documentaries.
  • BBC Radio 5 Live: The Up All Night programme was off air, replaced by pre-recorded programmes. 5 Live Breakfast was hosted by freelance journalist Ian Payne. A number of pre-recorded programmes were put on during the day.
  • BBC 6 Music: No news bulletins were broadcast at all, at one point.
  • BBC Local Radio: About half of the BBC Local Radio stations operated as normal, about half had scaled down their operations. For example, all NUJ members were out at BBC Radio Cornwall on Friday morning, while at BBC Radio Humberside, there were no broadcasters in at all on Saturday and all presenters between 6:00 and 13:30 were in – managers were playing music to fill in!
  • BBC Scotland/Wales/NI: Their Breakfast Shows were replaced by 5 Live Breakfast on Friday morning (not sure about Saturday).
  • BBC Television: BBC Breakfast on air but with Gavin Grey presenting solo on Friday, and East Midland’s Today‘s  Anne Davies joining regular presenter Charlie Stayt on Saturday | No regional opt-outs during BBC Breakfast. | Regional news bulletins were only 5 minutes long after the 6 news. | Newsnight was replaced by Have I Got News for You!
  • Plus many other cancellations/changes to various TV schedules which I haven’t mentioned.

In my personal opinion, the BBC’s journalism is extremely important for the country. The BBC has the best ones in the world, and is the broadcaster which sets the standards for journalism not just here in the UK, but all over the world. I hope that the NUJ get the dispute resolved with the BBC management, however I also take the view that striking won’t really help the BBC’s financial situation. So I sort of support the strike, but I sort of don’t!

Twitter has been quite interesting over the last few days as well. Search for #NUJ or #BBCStrike!  And here are my responses to some of the many ways people are spinning this to push forward their views:

  • Some Tweeters have turned this in to a “Conservative vs Labour” argument – for example, those working are Tories, those striking are Labour supporters. This is not the case. If an employer is taking away your money, either through a pay cut, or through changing the pension scheme, or generally making changes to something you don’t like, you’re going to want to protest regardless of your political views.
  • Some Tweeters think striking undermines the BBC’s legal requirement for impartiality. Not sure why it would. Its not like the journalists are saying “we support Labour/Tory/Lib Dem” (etc) – see previous comment above.
  • Some think that BBC staff should never be allowed to strike. To prevent them to doing so would be illegal, because the right to strike is a right which all British citizens have. Some say its a basic human right as well.
  • Meanwhile other Tweeters are shocked that some BBC staff are working. But surely, they should be able to make their own decisions as to whether they work on it.

If you are someone who does not think that it is right for: BBC staff to strike/BBC staff to work during a strike, may I draw your attention to the comment below, posted on a blog called “A Very Public Sociologist”. It sums up my point of view perfectly:

I respect the right of individuals to strike, but in the same way I respect the right (especially in this situation) for some to choose to work.

It should be a personal decision of conscience – I think it is disgraceful to demonise those who have worked and I’m disgusted at the unpleasant and personal abuse that has been thrown around on the Internet about people such as Emma Crosby and Andrew Collins.

If we are to respect the right to strike then we should equally respect those who choose not to.

View comment on the “A Very Public Sociologist” blog.

In short: I hope the BBC and the NUJ can resolve the dispute… well done to the BBC staff who have been working this weekend… let’s not bring politics in to this because we’re all in this together…  and let’s not demonise those who have worked, its their choice as to whether they accept the pension changes or not.

For further information, this page on the BBC Press Office contains details of changes to programmes this weekend. On the NUJ website, you can get updates and see photos from the union’s point of view.


Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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