BBC programmes hit by strike

BBC radio and TV programmes were hit by a journalists' strike today, with fresh industrial action being planned in protest at compulsory redundancies.

Radio 4's flagship Today programme was broadcast an hour later, at 7am, the World Tonight and Any Questions will be replaced, news bulletins were shorter, and other services, including those provided by the World Service, were disrupted.

The National Union of Journalists said the 24-hour walkout had been "solidly supported", with another strike set to be held in two weeks' time - July 29 - unless the row is resolved.

The BBC said six out of seven staff had worked normally and disruption was less than expected.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet, who joined a picket line outside the BBC TV Centre in London shortly after the strike started at midnight, said: "Union representatives have tried hard to resolve this serious dispute through negotiation. We have even agreed to use the Acas conciliation service to try to find a way forward, but BBC senior management has shown no real interest in negotiations.

"It is hard to avoid the conclusion that BBC management wants thousands of its journalists to go on strike rather than settle the dispute.

"If that is the case, it confirms our members' worst fears about the management strategy of introducing compulsory redundancy at the BBC.

"The massive vote for strike action by journalists across the BBC reflected their fear for the future as well as their solidarity, with colleagues already being targeted and singled out for the sack.

"Management indifference to settling our dispute suggests that our members' concern that many more redundancies are planned is fully justified.

"By the deliberate BBC decision to provoke this strike action, journalists will lose a day's pay and audiences will suffer for a dispute that is so easily avoidable. The BBC stance looks stubborn and provocative. It seems common-sense has been replaced by obstinacy."

Film-maker Ken Loach told the NUJ he had refused to appear on Radio Bristol, while Radio 1 presenter Chris Moyles gave the union a message of support as he arrived for work.

In an email to staff, Lucy Adams, the BBC's business operations director, said around 14% of staff who were due to be on duty today had decided not to work, adding that six out of seven staff were working normally

"Disruption to our services has been less than was expected. No BBC services have been blacked out or gone off air, there has been limited disruption to some of our news and local radio programmes.

"We are expecting the One, Six and Ten bulletins on television to go ahead as normal.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to correct two of the erroneous statements that have appeared in the press this morning. Firstly, the NUJ are still asking us to agree to a policy of no compulsory redundancies - which we are simply unable to do. There is no business of our size that could commit to this policy, especially when central Government funding is withdrawn.

"Secondly, we are committed to maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the NUJ and are always open to using the service of Acas. However, in these circumstances, a meeting with Acas would still not allow us to find around 100 staff new jobs. We regret these job losses and will continue to do all we can to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible.

"We have apologised to our listeners and viewers for disruption to our normal services, and I'd like to thank all of you who are working hard to ensure we continue to provide high-quality news programmes to our audiences locally, nationally and around the world."


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