Strike may delay start of Radio Five Alive

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The Independent Online
THE start of Radio Five Live, the 24-hour sport and current affairs network to be started by the BBC next month, could be hit by a strike on the day of its launch.

Tomorrow, the National Union of Journalists will ballot members who work in BBC news and current affairs on strike action.

Such a strike coinciding with Radio Five's launch date on 28 March would undoubtedly cause intense dismay to BBC managers, still hurriedly recruiting journalists to run the rolling news and sport station. The decision to ballot follows the breakdown of talks between the union and BBC on Friday.

A consultative ballot of 442 NUJ news and current affairs staff held on the issue before Christmas revealed that 90 per cent found management proposals for increased productivity 'unacceptable'.

John Fray, the national broadcasting organiser for the NUJ, said the union had been negotiating since September for more money and contractual guarantees to take account of the increased workload for journalists taking on new responsibilities. But options were exhausted. 'This strike would realistically stop all network news output from BBC radio and TV,' he said.

A BBC news and current affairs spokesman said: 'We are very disappointed that the union has pulled out of talks. At a time when inflation is under three per cent their demands are unrealistic, the more so since we have just created more than 150 jobs for the new Radio Five Live network.'