The National Union of Journalists says it will ballot members for industrial action following a decision by BBC management to abandon talks and press ahead with changes to the BBC Radio Foyle schedule.
Last November, the BBC announced plans to axe the weekday Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Foyle, as well as hourly news bulletins and the 30-minute lunchtime news programme. Eight journalist positions were to be removed from the station.
Earlier today, revised proposals were made public:
- The Breakfast Show is to continue, but reduced from 2 hours to 30 minutes.
- Hourly news bulletins are to be retained.
- The lunchtime news programme will still be axed.
- The BBC says it expects staffing levels to remain unchanged: “This includes some new roles to help deliver local and region-wide programming across the BBC’s services.”
- Production of some BBC Radio Ulster programmes would move to BBC Radio Foyle (the Hugo Duncan afternoon show and evening programmes, including those presented by Ralph McLean and Eve Blair).
The NUJ claims BBC management rejected proposals to trial a one-hour breakfast programme. The union says it believes 10 staff at the Derry station remain at risk of redundancy.
“The announcement of a new schedule, due to come into effect on April 24, is deeply disappointing and leaves the NUJ with no option but to put this matter into dispute.
“As a result of the strong stand taken by the NUJ and the massive public support for BBC Radio Foyle across the North West region, we have succeeded in securing hourly radio bulletins and retaining the principle of a breakfast news programme on the station. The NUJ had proposed a 1-hour Breakfast Show for a trial period but management has dug in on the idea of a 30-minute programme.
“Having entered into this process in good faith we were very disappointed with the hard-line position taken by management. We have now written to management and informed them that we dispute the matter and will have to move forward with a ballot for industrial action. There is still time for management to reconsider its position. The NUJ, public representatives and community groups made a strong and coherent case for the retention of the Breakfast Show.
“The public reaction, reflected in petitions, meetings, rallies and parliamentary interventions, is a measure of the importance of BBC Radio Foyle. The retention of regional bulletins and the principle that there should be a Breakfast Show from the Foyle studio are significant achievements.
“Having reached a measure of consensus it is entirely unreasonable to pull the plug and to announce a new, diminished schedule with a fanfare which will not succeed in convincing anyone that this is in the best interest of BBC Radio Foyle or staff.
“We will continue to campaign for a stronger commitment to Radio Foyle by the BBC and are confident that we have the support of the people who matter most – the daily listeners across the North West.”Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary
In a statement, BBC Northern Ireland interim director Adam Smyth said the changes “reflect our commitment to Foyle as a production centre for local and region-wide output”.
“News will remain a core part of its work, focussing on stories and issues affecting BBC audiences across the whole of the north west,” he added.
PICTURED: BBC Radio Foyle logo. COPYRIGHT: BBC.