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TUC backs NUJ motions on BBC cuts and Leveson

29 August 2012

Motions calling for a conscience clause for journalists, changes to press regulation and a plea to the BBC's new director general to establish a new plan for the future of the corporation were passed unanimously by Congress.

Delegates in Brighton were told how the Leveson Inquiry heard witness after witness tell of "practices perpetrated by a powerful media that had come to think of itself as above the law".

Chris Frost, chair of the NUJ's ethics council, proposed the motion. He told the meeting:

"We have already heard today about bullying in the workplace. Well I'm here to tell you that bullying in newsrooms, especially the national press, is rife and totally unacceptable.
"The NUJ gave evidence to Leveson on behalf of a number of journalists too scared for their jobs to appear in person. The Daily Mail tried to obtain a High Court order to prevent these journalists give anonymous evidence. Fortunately, even the courts realised the importance of hearing from those too scared or embarrassed to tell their story in person.
"The NUJ is seeking a conscience clause so that journalists can refuse assignments that would require them to act unethically without risk to their jobs.
"Rupert Murdoch, when questioned about a journalist at one of his papers being bullied, replied that she could have quit. It was left to Lord Justice Leveson to remind him that maybe the journalist needed the job."

Professor Frost called for a change to the system of press regulation so that all stakeholders, proprietors and editors plus the public and journalists had a role. We needed to campaign for "a fair regulatory system that puts press freedom as its number one priority but with fair and accurate coverage of British and international affairs a close second."

The motion was seconded by John McDonnell from the GMB's NW & Irish Region:

"We watched the inquiry unfolding day by day, opening up to the public the disgusting practices of the Murdoch empire: the phone hacking; the cosy relationship between the press and the police; the even cosier relationship between the Murdoch press and the politicians at their beck and call; and them destroying the lives and reputations of anyone who challenged them."

Donnacha DeLong, NUJ president, told Congress the BBC was under attack. Rupert Murdoch and the Murdoch family were behind the deal which led to the BBC's licence fee being frozen and the 20 per cuts imposed by the Delivering Quality First scheme. He quoted from James Murdoch's 2009 MacTaggart speech, which ended with the chilling words: "The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit."

Christine Payne, general secretary of Equity, seconded the motion. She said:

"The BBC is instrumental in nurturing and developing my members' talents – it gives them the opportunity to work with great material from new and established writers and to appear in high-quality programmes that are only possible with the involvement of the best production and creative workforce in the world.
"In the Midlands, my members are fighting hard to hang on to what is left of BBC Birmingham – they fear it will only be a matter of time before The Archers and the daytime drama, Doctors, are moved away from the region – 19 per cent of the licence fee comes from the Midlands but by the end of 2012 less than 3 per cent will be spent there."

Tags: , tuc, bbc, Leveson, conscience clause, newspapers, broadcasting, chris frost, john mcdonnell, donnacha delong