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NUJ seeks clarity on Local Democracy Reporters announcement

3 December 2020

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has given a cautious welcome to the announcement by the BBC of plans to extend the Local Democracy Reporters (LRD) scheme and is seeking further clarity on various aspects of the scheme including the terms of any new contracts and the potential impact on journalists already employed.

Yesterday the BBC announced plans to extend the scheme for a further three years and increase the number of reporters by 15 to 165. The BBC also intends to reform and increase the existing 68 contracts to 115 and this could enable more outlets to tender and secure work.

The changes could have a consequential impact on current reporting responsibilities and remits and has created a degree of uncertainty for those already employed as LDRs.

Yesterday's announcement lacked assurances about existing journalistic roles, terms and conditions so the NUJ is inquiring about the risk of potential redundancies and the applicability of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006.

Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said:

"The Local Democracy Reporters scheme has helped fill gaps in the media's coverage of local democracy so the extension of the scheme is to be welcomed but we will be seeking clarification on a number of issues regarding the position of those already engaged in the scheme."

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands senior organiser, said:

"We are hoping the BBC will offer clarity to all of the current Local Democracy Reporters, stating clearly that its intention is that they should be retained on the scheme and this expectation will be clearly communicated to contract winners. The union is engaging with various organisations including the BBC, Newsquest, Reach Plc and JPIMedia, as well as seeking independent legal advice in an attempt to secure fairness and certainty for all NUJ members affected."

Tags: , local democracy reporters, bbc, newspapers, local journalism, local media