Staff working for the BBC’s regional services have voted overwhelmingly to strike in protest against the broadcaster’s planned cuts to local radio.
In a ballot with 1,000 journalists of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) who work across BBC Local on radio, regional TV and online, 83% voted for strike action, according to an NUJ statement.
They will walk out for 24 hours on March 15 – a crucial day in the public broadcaster’s calendar, as the planned date the British government will release its Budget and lay out plans for spending and taxation for the year ahead.
The walkout comes in the face of controversial planned cuts to public radio, which would see local services – including its music platform BBC Introducing – merge programming after 2:PM on weekdays, with up to four radio stations sharing the same output.
Read this next: Without independent radio, homogeny thrives
It comes as the BBC plans to “modernise” its services, through a stronger focus on more digital and online content.
Michelle Stanistreet, the 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 dismantled.
“I urge the BBC to take stock and meaningfully engage so that we can come to a solution that acknowledges the vital role that quality, relevance and genuinely local news plays in our public service broadcaster,” she continued.
“The BBC’s focus on digital content and delivery shouldn’t be at the expense of local news and journalism.”
Read this next: Music industry groups pen open letter to save BBC Introducing
Paul Siegert, the NUJ’s national broadcasting organiser said: “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,” he continued.
“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 expressed the broadcaster’s “disappointment at the outcome of the ballet. They told Mixmag in a statement: “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.”
Isaac Muk is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter
Written by: Tim Hopkins