Signal radio journalists ballot over UTV cuts
1 July 2009
Journalists at Signal Radio in Stoke are balloting for industrial action over cuts. The three news staff at one of the UK's oldest commercial radio stations have been told two of their jobs are being axed. Bulletin production in the afternoon moved 49-miles-away to Wigan.
In a letter to Staffordshire and Cheshire MPs, the NUJ chapel says the plans by parent company UTV will mean "the death of journalism".
The other radio stations joining together in a news hub are The Wolf in Wolverhampton, Juice FM in Liverpool, Tower in Bolton, Wire in Warrington and Wish in Wigan.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ Deputy General Secretary, said:
"News hubbing is a trendy word for cutting and running from the communities that radio stations claim to serve. Having news for six stations run by overworked journalists in Wigan is a recipe for disaster for listeners and workers.
"This is an issue for radio journalists all over the country. I applaud the NUJ members at Signal for standing up for independent radio news and send them the solidarity of the entire union."
The Signal journalists' letter asking local MPs to lobby the company said:
We need help. Local news output at Signal Radio is under attack.
Our parent company UTV is proposing Signal's news out-put comes from a news hub in Wigan during the afternoon. The plan would mean Signal's newsroom being reduced from an already paltry three journalists to just one.
That one person would read breakfast news bulletins. Bulletins in the afternoon would be pre-recorded and not live. They'd come from a hub in Wigan, 49 miles away from Stoke on Trent. The hub, staffed by six people, would provide bulletins for six stations. Staffing levels at that hub would mean three journalists on afternoon shifts doing bulletins for all six stations.
We believe this plan will be the death of journalism in the UTV Group and more importantly, from our point of view, at Signal.
Signal Radio is a heritage station. It's been on air for 26 years and used to pride itself on being LOCAL.
The UTV Group, in a disastrous plan to re-position the station, decided two years ago that it would no longer be local, it would be relevant. This plan didn't work and listening figures have plummeted by a million hours over the last year.
Now UTV wants to further compound that mistake by wrecking Signal's local news output.
The company's latest plan would mean no one in the patch during the afternoon to react to stories. It would mean out of date bulletins being produced by people with little or no knowledge of the area. In short, Signal news, as people have known it over the last 26 years, would cease to exist.
We, along with eight other journalists affected by the hubbing plan in the Group, have already rejected this proposal and come up with counter proposals to save money. Despite on-going consultation on this matter, UTV is pushing ahead with a parallel programme of informing journalists in the Group that they are at risk of redundancy.
The National Union of Journalists' chapel at Signal has voted unanimously for a ballot on possible industrial action.
This is the last thing we want to do. We would rather be serving our listeners as we have for years. Instead, we're being forced into a corner.
We hope you'll recognise the importance local news plays in any given area and how important it is that Signal maintains a proper local presence.
We hope you can support us in our fight to save the newsroom at Signal so we can maintain a strong local backbone for this station.