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BBC staff strike against job cuts

The BBC was hit by strike action yesterday as NUJ members across the country staged a 24-hour walkout in their campaign against compulsory redundancies.

Radio and TV schedules were disrupted as many presenters, including Lauren Laverne and John Humphrys refused to cross picket lines.

The day of action was kicked off by mass walkouts of night-shift workers at midnight in offices around the country.

Despite 200 applications for voluntary redundancy the corporation is pressing ahead with job cuts – planning to destroy 2000 posts over the next five years.

Picket lines in London, Cardiff, Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham were joined by many others as angry members turned out to defend their jobs and oppose cuts to public-service broadcasting.

Many of those on strike were particularly angry about the vast salaries being pocketed by managers and the golden handshakes given to departing bosses; chief operating officer Caroline Thomson picked up a £670,000 payoff.

The BBC is a public service, bought and paid for by ordinary people over decades. It’s obscene that its bosses are allowed to behave like bankers – fleecing us for inflated salaries, and then demanding we suffer the effect of cuts to our service.

Although the BBC has many faults – not least the biased coverage of Britain’s wars and its own role in the Jimmy Savile scandal – these faults are precisely the reason we fight to defend and improve what we should own against the Tories’ attempts to destroy it.

Drastic budget cuts in the BBC are aimed not at saving money, but at preparing the way for privatisation – removing the main competitor to the corrupt media barons who collaborated with Tories and police to cover up endless scandals.

It’s no surprise Rupert Murdoch is a big fan of cuts to the BBC.

The NUJ will continue a work to rule with future action a possibility. One thing’s for sure – if they accept a few job cuts now, then the government will develop an appetite for more, as it tries to take the path of least resistance.

An escalation of the strike would send out a clear signal to the government – but it won’t be enough on its own to win. The NUJ and other unions at the BBC should be working overtime to build up support amongst the communities it serves.

The role of TV and radio broadcasting in regulating control over information is still central. As a society we need to have services we can trust. A big campaign to defend the BBC would have to be part of the wider struggle to defend public services.

Within that struggle, we must point to the failures at Mid Staffs hospital and in the BBC and say ‘we can’t trust the government to run public services – the employees, users and general public should be the ones with control over how services are run.’

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