With over 20 journalists attending the picket lines during the day and a handful of managers and contractors putting out a skeletal broadcast, the BBC strike was fairly solid in Leeds. Strikers were out campaigning against compulsory redundancies.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
Last year the government and BBC governors agreed a six year freeze in the TV license fee, from which the BBC draws its funding, which is meaning spending cuts of around 20% within the corporation, including the axing of some foreign language services through the BBC World Service with others to potentially follow. As part of this, the company is imposing compulsory redundancies on staff, and making it difficult for individuals in services that are being cut to re-train for other areas of work within the corporation.
BBC Radio Leeds NUJ Father of the Chapel, Trevor Gibbons, spoke to the Socialist – “The NUJ represents 85% of BBC journalists and the strike today will impact services, particularly TV and radio news programmes as the people out here and the ones who make them.” There was no local reporting on Radio Leeds from around 9am onwards and Look North was to be reduced to a 5 minute bulletin compared to its usual 15 and 30 minute length, a huge cheer went up as it was announced the flagship programmes such as Newsnight were not going to air, and that the national 6 o’clock news bulletin would only be 5 minutes long, reflecting a hope amongst strikers that such solid action will help bring management back to the negotiating table.
A major topic of conversation on the picket lines was the ongoing saga with News International, many on the picket lines were worried about the future of the newspaper industry if more News International titles were to close, given the huge job losses in journalism over the previous period. On the other hand, many were not sorry to see the Murdoch empire run into difficulties, especially given the attacks his media have made on the BBC.
As Trevor commented “If you compare the BBC license fee per day for content compared to what people pay for Sky and other packages, then its easy to see that its a much better service for what you’re paying. But to the likes of James Murdoch we’re on obstacle to them making even more profits”.