Staff Stage Biggest Walkout In 13 Years Over Content Cuts – Deadline

BBC employees will stage their biggest strike in 13 years today as they walk out in protest over job losses and changes to local content.

Around 1,000 National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members are expected to down tools for 24 hours from 11AM local time and the BBC has acknowledged that it will be a difficult day.

In an email to staff obtained by Deadline, Jason Horton, the BBC’s Director of Production for local services, said it would be a “hard moment for everyone” and urged people to treat each other with “kindness and respect.”

The strike is expected to disrupt the BBC’s coverage of the government’s Budget, a setpiece moment in the UK political calendar in which ministers are expected to maintain support for energy bills and potentially introduce free childcare.

The BBC walkout comes on a day of widespread industrial action in the UK, with teachers, doctors, London Underground, and university workers set to go on strike.

BBC employees are protesting against plans to make nearly 50 roles redundant across local services. Radio shows are being cut, while the BBC has axed We Are England, a regional documentary TV show.

The BBC has argued that funding for local content is being maintained, but it is reprioritizing £19M ($23M) of resources from traditional broadcast services to online and multimedia production.

Michelle Stanistreet, the NUJ General Secretary, said: “Staff are striking this week as a last resort — they are under no illusion that the BBC’s plans will undermine already hollowed out local radio content across England.”

Some 83% of NUJ members voted in favor of a strike in a postal ballot, with the remaining 17% not supporting a walkout. The turnout was 69%, which was higher than some were expecting.

BBC staff have not staged a major strike since 2010, when there was a 48-hour walkout over a pensions dispute. Flagship shows, including Newsnight and Breakfast, fell off air as star presenters including Fiona Bruce joined the protest.

The International Federation of Journalists, the global union for journalists, voiced its support for the BBC strike.

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