NUJ walks out onThursday, March 28, over job cuts, excessive workload and bullying at BBC
BBC journalists and their colleagues walked out at noon on Easter Thursday in a 12-hour strike against a damaging cost-cutting scheme imposed by management. The action severly disrupted the BBC's schedules and had a knock-on effect on Easter programming.
BBC NUJ members went on strike together with technicians and other members of broadcasting union Bectu over compulsory redundancies, excessive workloads and bullying and harassment within the corporation.
The BBC News and BBC World channels both switched to a pre-recorded broadcast at 12:00 when the strike began. Both channels later broadcast a mixture of live news bulletins and pre-recorded programmes. A shortened One O'Clock News was broadcast at 1pm while there was no World at One on Radio 4. Eddie Mair's PM was swapped for a repeat of Saturday's Archive on 4 - DNA 60 Years On. The World Tonight was replaced with a repeat of Loose Ends.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said: "Members are taking strike action next week in a clear message to the BBC that it needs to listen to its staff and properly address the problems created by their ill-conceived and badly implemented cuts programme. It is disappointing that once again the BBC has decided not to properly engage, refusing our call for a moratorium to give space for meaningful discussions on the worrying impact of the cuts.
“BBC executives know they've got a major problem on their hands – the recent investigation into bullying and harassment has lifted the lid on a problem that has been allowed to grow to shocking levels, under the noses of senior executives supposed to be responsible for upholding 'BBC values'. We hope the forthcoming Respect at Work report will be a positive step forward in tackling a problem that has become institutionalised – but it's hard to believe that there's a real commitment to change when we're seeing cases of people who have been targeted, bullied and unfairly picked off being rushed out of the door. Compulsory redundancies being pushed through at the same time as jobs are being advertised externally is not just bad management, it's a waste of licence fee money.
"The BBC is adamant that the cuts are having no impact on quality. NUJ members know this is bunkum – they are the ones dealing with the real impact of cuts that have been targeted directly at frontline programming, they can see that corners are being cut, that staff are being put under huge pressure to deliver with fewer resources, and inevitably quality journalism is compromised. Calling their package of 20 per cent cuts Delivering Quality First was always a nonsense and an insult – and it is becoming clearer every day that the cuts, which are being badly implemented from the top, are diminishing quality journalism at our public service broadcaster."
The NUJ provided a dossier of evidence to the BBC's review of its policies and processes relating to bullying and harassment, a process headed by Dinah Rose QC. The request for confidential evidence by the NUJ resulted in a huge response from BBC journalists past and present. It revealed a "shocking" picture of widespread and entrenched bullying and harassment, alongside a sustained failure by BBC management to deal with the perpetrators. It is clear that whilst the problem is an entrenched one, it has worsened in the wake of the cuts taking place.
The BBC has refused the unions’ call for a six-month moratorium to discuss the impact of the DQF cuts and the BBC's failure in parts of the organisation to put in place an agreed redeployment scheme. Tony Hall, the new director general is due to take up his post in April.
Sue Harris, NUJ national broadcasting organiser said that talks with the BBC had made some progress on a new IT system that will help the redeployment system. She said: "It makes sense to have a moratorium on the cuts while we are sorting out these problems. There needs to be a proper assessment of the issues and appropriate action to ensure that the price of DQF is not people's health and well-being at work.”
Under DQF the BBC will cut its budget by 20 per cent, resulting in 2,000 job losses, many from core programming. The BBC has already lost more than 7,000 jobs since 2004. This is because former director general Mark Thompson agreed to freeze the BBC licence until 2017 while taking on an extra £340 million in spending commitments, including the World Service and roll-out of fast broadband.
BBC strike hailed a success (February 19)
The NUJ's strike against compulsory redundancies and the threat to quality journalism was a great success, with many flagship national and regional programmes pulled off the air. But this could be only the start.
In all, the BBC plans to cut 2,000 jobs. The BBC has already lost more than 7,000 jobs since 2004.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said the jobs crisis which had created the strike was the result of the licence fee settlement imposed by the government behind closed doors in 2010. "We hope the new BBC director general seizes the chance to push for a renegotiation of the licence fee settlement. That deal froze the licence fee and foisted an additional £340 million of spending commitments on the BBC, setting the corporation on a path of decline that threatens our world-acclaimed public service broadcaster. We're seeing the impact of those cuts now, and thanks to the strategic decisions of senior BBC management they're translating into a clear attack on quality programming and journalism at the BBC."
Michelle Stanistreet condemned the ill-informed comments by prime minister David Cameron on the successful strike by BBC journalists. He had claimed there were no grounds for Monday's strike by journalists at the BBC because the corporation was 'a well-funded broadcaster' after a 'fair' licence feel deal in 2010.
The NUJ general secretary said: "David Cameron's comments confirm what we all know - he's clueless about the need for working people to fight for jobs and public services."
But she stressed the need for BBC management to seek now to resolve its dispute with the corporation's journalists and other staff. "The action has been a huge success and I hope it has made BBC managment sit up and start to take us seriously when we say we will not accept our members being put at risk of compulsory redundancy, while at the very same time they are advertising job vacancies. It is a monumental waste of talent and experience. Paying needless redundancies is a waste of public money.
"We have made a simple request of the BBC – together with the our sister unions Bectu and Unite. We want a six-month moratorium on the so-called Delivering Quality First cuts. We want time to assess the damage these cuts are doing to journalism and programming and we want to ensure there is adequate time to make sure any redundancies are voluntary. These discussion need to be had with the incoming Director General – we need real leadership from the top of the BBC to address problems that are resulting in clear industrial problems.
"In the meantime the NUJ work-to-rule continues and we will begin preparations to reballot members as the current ballot expires later this month"
Cuts under the BBC's cost-saving programme Delivering Quality First will mean:
• Investigative journalism and coverage of political conferences will suffer. Already under the scheme 1,400 news posts have been cut.
• More major sports events will be lost to pay TV.
• Local radio cuts will damage the BBC's reach to local communities.
• In Scotland 100 to 120 jobs could go.
• BBC Wales stands to lose more than 100 jobs in Bangor and Cardiff.
What you can do:
Email the BBC Trust. Tell the email@example.com
that you support the strike - the cuts are putting the quality of BBC journalism at risk.
Scottish cuts come home in historic year for news
As the Scottish population faces one of the most important debates in its history – the independence referendum – BBC Scotland has decided to cut its news team.
Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish organiser, said: "This is one of the most important decisions to be made in this country for centuries and demands the fullest public scrutiny and impartial analysis.
"It needs skilled, experienced reporters asking searching questions on the economic, cultural and political implications of independence or about retaining the status quo. So what does the BBC do? It gets rid of specialist reporters and correspondents.
"This will result in a serious dumbing down of output. In the lead up to the referendum we need experts in education, business and politics – three areas where cuts are being made. We need skilled, experienced reporters asking searching questions on the economic, cultural and political implications of independence or retaining the status quo."
Michelle's message to Tony Hall
Michelle Stanistreet has called for a moratorium on cuts until Tony Hall, DG of the BBC starts his job in April.
She said:: "NUJ members at the BBC are hoping that when you take up the helm your priority will be on journalism and quality programming. This is being severely compromised as a result of the DQF cuts rendering morale among BBC staff at an all-time low.
"The toxic legacy of Mark Thompson is a woeful deal on the licence fee that froze the settlement and enabled a run on the BBC's coffers, costing the corporation an extra £340million in new responsibilities including the funding of the World Service, local TV and the rollout of fast broadband.
"We hope that you will see these cuts for what they are – an attack on the ability of the BBC to fulfil its responsibilities as our public service broadcaster. These cuts are damaging the very heart of the BBC – made worse by ill-informed strategic decisions that go to the very top of the BBC's management. There needs to be a reassessment, and your leadership at the BBC will provide an opportunity to right some wrongs. Your best asset is your staff. As a former BBC journalist you know only too well how committed journalists at the corporation are to the BBC values of high quality, independent programming that informs, educates and entertains.
"It's time for some real leadership at the BBC – there needs to be a moratorium on further cuts and there needs to be a renewed commitment that ensures the BBC can carry on providing the top notch journalism and programming its reputation has been built on."
Use this booklet to build up your camapign to end the cuts.
BBC Cuts: There is an alternative:
Click on the image to read the booklet
The BBC is making 20 per cent cuts over the next five years as a result of a freeze in the licence fee. Under the corporation's "Delivering Quality First" (DQF) scheme, 2,000 jobs will go and core news coverage and programme making will be affected. The BBC has already lost more than 7,000 jobs since 2004.
The NUJ as part of the Federation of Entertainment Unions is spearheading a campaign which is putting forward an alternative to these cuts, which will cause irreparable damage to some of the BBC's most-loved and most respected programmes. We hope that we can depend on your support.
Licence fee- payers were not asked for their views when the deal was done. That is unfair. John Whittingdale, the Conservative chair of the Culture, Media and Sports select committee, described the deal, which was made behind closed doors, as "a short, private, negotiation between the BBC and the government which did not do much to inspire confidence in the independence, transparency or accountability of the process". More worrying is the concern, shared by the Leveson Inquiry, that Rupert Murdoch's closeness to politicians allowed him to further his commercial interests at the expense of the BBC.
That is why we are calling for a renegotiation of the licence fee deal. As well as the 20 per cent cuts, the BBC will be taking on an extra £340 million in spending commitments on new responsibilities, including the funding of the World Service, local TV and the rollout of fast broadband.
The cost of an annual licence fee has gone up by just £10 since 2007. It now costs just over £12 a month for all the TV, radio, website and live events the BBC covers. That compares to more than £60 a month for some subscription services. If current licence fee paying households contributed just over £2 more a month, these cuts to programming could be stopped. The BBC is not just about providing high-quality TV and radio. It provides cultural and educational enrichment. Its orchestras, the Proms and its collaboration the Open University are the envy of the world.
Research commissioned by the unions showed that the cuts outlined in DQF are likely to lead to a reduction in UK economic output of between £1.1 and £1.7 billion pounds per year at 2011 prices. The report, by Landman Economics, said DQF puts at severe risk BBC's ability to meet its wider social objectives. Smaller channels such as BBC Three and BBC Four which account for much of the wide diversity of the BBC's output are being cut by more than average. Older people are likely to be disproportionately affected by the planned cuts to BBC local radio services. Regional coverage will also be badly hit.
The Federation of Entertainment Unions has produced a booklet which sets out the alternative. I hope you will share its aims and will be able to disseminate it and encourage your colleagues, local community and partner organisations to send the postcard provided as part of the booklet or send an e-message here
to George Entwistle, Director General of the BBC.
Read about the FEU booklet launch here
What you can do to help:
This is an ideal opportunity for all members of the NUJ to show Director General George Entwistle just how much the BBC is valued.
1. Write to your MP
It is better to write your own personal letter than a standard or model letter as it shows the strength of feeling you have about the campaign. Relaying personal experiences about the campaign to your elected representative will help to illustrate the key issues.
- Introduce yourself and say where you live/work
- Clearly and simply explain about the campaign
- Give examples of how you are affected and why you oppose the cuts
- Be specific about what you would like your MP to do (i.e. participate in the BBC's public consultation, contact the BBC Trust and local BBC management, raise the issues with the Minister, ask questions in Parliament).
2. BBC - DQF public consultation. Make your views known.
The official BBC public consultation has closed. But that does not stop you from making your views known to the BBC Trust.Your can send a letter to Lord Patten, BBC Trust, 80 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ You can use the arguments from our DQF newsletters and post card to Lord Patten (see below) to help you support your case. Or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Get local support for the campaign
Working with others will help the campaign - contact local organisations which are affected by the proposals and ask them for support. You may want to contact non-governmental organisations such as community groups, charities, faith organisations, trade unions and local businesses.
You can also write to local councillors, local trade councils and prominent people in your community and ask them to speak out against the BBC cuts.
Offer to send an NUJ speaker to other organisation’s meetings and/or organise your own meeting.
For more information about the campaign, speaker requests and/or campaign materials email: email@example.com
DQF campaign materials:
An analysis carried out by Howard Reed of Landman Economics shows that the cuts outlined in DFQ are likely to lead to a reduction in UK economic output of between £1.1 and £1.7 billion pounds per year at current (2011) prices.
Listen to Mitch Benn's I'm Proud of the BBC and forward to your friends and contacts: