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BBC England staff vote for strike action in local radio programming row

BBC journalists have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of strike action in a dispute over planned changes to local radio programming.

In October, the BBC proposed local radio stations share more content and broadcast less programming unique to their areas which would see local programming restricted before 2pm and afternoon programmes across England shared between its 39 local radio stations.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) previously warned the propositions would lead to a loss of posts and journalists having to re-apply for their own jobs.

On Tuesday, the union said its members working for BBC England had backed industrial action over the proposals, with 83% voting in favour of strikes, and 92% voting in support of action short of a strike, with a 69% turnout rate.

Trade publication Deadline reported the strikes could coincide with the King’s Coronation.

The NUJ also said the dispute was not over pay but over how resources were “best used to serve audiences”.

It confirmed union reps were meeting on Tuesday afternoon to “discuss the next steps”.

In a series of tweets, the union said: “But the door remains open for the BBC to engage in constructive discussions. We believe members can deliver digital content and also #KeepBBCLocalRadioLocal.

“Although Local Radio is our main focus, members remain concerned about terms and conditions under the Digital First proposals.

“Our members have delivered a huge mandate for action. The turnout for the ballot was 69% of members eligible to vote – ie : NUJ members working within BBC Local.”

Under the proposals, the broadcaster previously confirmed 48 jobs would be lost across local staffing in England.

Last month, NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul Siegert said there was “real anger” about the BBC’s plans for local radio, adding that it would “completely undermine the BBC’s public service remit” and take the “local” out of local radio.

The plans come as part of cost-saving measures, as the BBC previously said that due to a freeze in the licence fee and inflation it faces a £400 million funding gap by 2026/2027 and must make savings.

Some 382 jobs at the service are being lost as part of plans to move to a digital-led offering, it was announced in September.

Tim Davie, who took over from Lord Tony Hall as director-general in September 2020, has overseen a slimming down of the corporation since starting in the role.

The BBC has been contacted for comment.