Thursday, 23 Mar 2023

BBC staff plot strike on King Charles’s Coronation Day

Harry and Meghan ‘definitely invited to coronation’ says expert

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BBC staff could time upcoming strikes to interfere with King Charles III’s Coronation. A ballot organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) could see 1,000 journalists withdraw their labour on March 15 and May 6. If they vote to take action by Monday, February 27, the timing would allow them to cause maximum disruption at a crucial time, with the network also due to cover the spring budget.

BBC bosses have outlined plans to transform the corporation’s regional radio services, shifting the focus from local to digital shows.

While they have assured journalists they won’t need to cut any of the division’s 2,200 jobs, the NUJ fears up to 40 presenter roles hang in the balance.

NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul Siegert said in January that there is “real anger” about the BBC’s plans, which he claimed would result in “5.7 million people getting a much-reduced service” and “take the ‘local’ out of local radio”.

An individual with knowledge of the potential strike plans told The Times union members would want to ensure the action has a maximal impact.

They said this would rule out scheduling walkouts for a “slow news day”.

The insider told the publication that taking action on uneventful days “reduces the impact of any action”.

They conceded that organisers “can’t usually predict whether it’s going to be a busy news day or not”.

Choosing to time the strikes with the Coronation and budget would guarantee the action hits at the BBC’s busiest time.

They explained: “Hitting the budget will be more disruptive because of the amount of coverage about what it means for local audiences but there would also definitely be an impact on the coronation.”

The 24-hour walkouts would impact high-profile programmes, including the all-important 6.30pm regional bulletins.

The effects would also noticeably extend to other content, such as radio and online shows.

A BBC staffer said this would ultimately mean that many audiences notice the disruption.

When he outlined the vote in January, Mr Siegert said he expected “an overwhelming vote for action”.

The NUJ has since confirmed the strike action “could include Coronation day and budget day”.

The decision is ultimately down to union representatives following next week’s ballot result.

If they vote to strike, the action could prove the most disruptive in a decade.

BBC staff last went on strike in 2010, when the NUJ organised action in response to proposed pension plan changes.

The strikes knocked Radio 4’s Today programme off air on November 5 of that year.

And non-union presenters were drafted to cover programmes not usually in their remit.

Other services were reduced, with inexperienced newsreaders replacing others on strike, creating a noticeable quality impact.

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