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BBC Local journalists vote to strike on budget day

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National Union of Journalists members working for BBC Local have voted in favour of a 24-hour strike action starting at 11am on March 15.

The strike will end at the same time the following day, hitting coverage of the Spring budget which also takes place on March 15.

The ballot was called over the corporation’s plans to cut local radio services, and a work-to-rule commencing at the close of the first strike action was also agreed. Further strike action will be announced in due course and options being considered are coverage of the local elections, Coronation and the Eurovision Song Contest.

The ballot of 1,000 members across BBC Local resulted in 83 per cent of members voting in favour of strike action and 92 per cent voting in favour of action short of a strike with a turnout of 69 per cent. Those striking will be journalists working for local radio, regional TV and online in England.

The BBC wants local radio stations to share programming after 2pm on weekdays and at weekends. NUJ members have robustly opposed these changes, which the union says would result in a diminution of local content and up to four radio stations sharing the same output.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “This emphatic result demonstrates the strength of feeling amongst BBC members and their determination not to stand by and see local radio output dismantled. I would urge the BBC to take stock and meaningfully engage so that we can come to a solution that acknowledges the vital role that quality, relevant and genuinely local news plays in our public service broadcaster. The BBC’s focus on digital content and delivery shouldn’t be at the expense of local news and journalism.”

Paul Siegert, the NUJ’s national broadcasting organiser, added: “This result and the decision to take strike action shows overwhelmingly that the BBC’s proposals do not have the backing of its journalists. Local radio is supposed to be local. That is its USP and one of the main reasons why 5.7m people listen to it every week. NUJ members are not opposed to the BBC investing in digital services, but it should not come at the expense of local radio and the communities it serves.

“We urge the BBC to get back around the table and start talking to us to try and find a way forward. No one wants to take strike action but the future of local radio is at stake and so our members are left with no option.”

A BBC spokesperson responded: “We are disappointed at the outcome of the ballot. Our local plans are about delivering an even better service to communities across England, reflecting how audiences use the BBC, strengthening our online provision and increasing the impact of our journalism.

“We have consulted extensively with the NUJ over recent months and adapted our plans in response to feedback. We have assured teams working across our 39 BBC Local bases that we will maintain overall investment and staffing levels in local services and we’ll work hard to minimise the risk of compulsory redundancies.”

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