UK Markets closed

Local BBC TV and radio services face disruption as staff begin 24-hour strike

BBC services face disruption as staff begin a 24-hour strike in protest against proposed cuts to the broadcaster’s local radio output.

Around 1,000 journalists are expected to walk out on Wednesday, as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers his Spring Budget, prompting changes to the local TV and radio schedule in England.

Around 25 journalists left Broadcasting House in central London just after 11am to join officials from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The demonstrators held placards reading “stop the cuts” and “save local news”, while one homemade sign read “keep BBC radio local”.

They chanted “save local radio” and “keep local radio local”.

Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell also attended.

This action comes in response to the BBC’s proposal in October that local radio stations share more content and broadcast less programming unique to their areas.

This would see local programming restricted before 2pm and afternoon programmes across England shared between its 39 local radio stations.

The NUJ previously warned the plans would lead to a loss of posts and journalists having to re-apply for their own jobs.

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

Jason Horton, director of production for BBC Local, said in a blog post: “We’d like to apologise to our audience for the disruption that this action will cause to the BBC’s local TV and radio services in England.

“We will of course continue to engage with the trade union and do everything possible to minimise the impact on colleagues affected by our planned changes.

“We have assured teams working across our 39 BBC Local bases that we are maintaining overall investment and staffing levels in local services and we’re working hard to minimise the risk of compulsory redundancies.

“But change is essential. If our local services are to remain relevant in an increasingly online and on-demand world of live and increasing on-demand services, we must change.”

A BBC spokesman said the broadcaster had “tried to minimise disruption as much as possible”.

He added: “We are obviously disappointed that the strike has gone ahead. We have a plan to modernise local services across England – including more news journalists and a stronger local online service – which will see no overall reduction in staffing levels or local funding.

“Our goal is a local service across TV, radio and online that delivers even greater value to communities.

“We will continue to engage with the trade union and do everything possible to minimise the impact on staff.”