Around 250 people attended a public meeting in Derry-Londonderry this evening, organised by the NUJ, to voice their opposition to BBC Northern Ireland plans to scale back the news operation at local radio station BBC Radio Foyle.
In November, BBC Northern Ireland announced that it was cutting 36 jobs in the region – mainly in news and radio – with eight journalist posts being removed at the Derry station.
Radio Foyle’s breakfast programme faces the axe, along with its hourly news bulletins.
Local politicians, business people and clergy have voiced their opposition to the plans.
Foyle MP Colum Eastwood said it was “an attempt to close BBC Radio Foyle down by stealth.”
The DUP’s Gregory Campbell said the change would lead to the BBC operation in Northern Ireland becoming “Belfast-centric”.
BBC Northern Ireland said that its plans “reflect a BBC-wide strategy to prioritise digital content, announced earlier this year, and the need to manage inflationary and other cost pressures”.
At this evening’s public meeting, Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, thanked the city’s mayor, Sandra Duffy, for her strong endorsement of the union’s campaign to save the local radio station.
He went on: “BBC Radio Foyle matters because community matters and tonight you join with us as a community rejecting an ill-conceived, half-baked plan which threatens to undermine the essence of the station, it’s locally based news service and the morning platform which shapes the day of so many listeners. And for a paltry sum.”
Veteran campaigner, Eamon McCann, said he believed the campaign could have a positive outcome.
“We have more public support for this campaign to save Radio Foyle than any other region,” he added.
Former BBC Radio Foyle presenter Joe Mahon said the station was set up to reflect life in an area that “was culturally and geographically distinct” and was considered under served by the BBC at that time.
“I would like to know when that identity has been seen as less strong? It has been strengthened. The decisions that are being made about something as culturally and politically important are ridiculous,” he said.
The NUJ says it will present alternative proposals to BBC management next week.
EXTERNAL LINK: NUJ campaign to save BBC Radio Foyle.
PICTURED: BBC Radio Foyle logo. COPYRIGHT: BBC.