Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Face to face with the BBC over cuts

As several media commentators revealed yesterday I met with the BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons along with the General Secretaries of the other media unions.

The meeting couldn't have been better timed. As I came out the tube station the Evening Standard banners read "BBC Chief to Axe 2800 Jobs".

Whilst the meeting was confidential and he gave little away about the actual details of the plans Mark Thompson will outline to staff next week he was left in no doubt about how strongly the unions feel and how determined we are to resist cuts which we believe which rip the heart out of core parts of the BBC. Every journalist at the BBC knows, having suffered one round of job and budget cuts already, that more job losses will mean cutting more corners and compromising quality. The BBC cannot afford to allow quality to fall.

The news and factual and learning divisions are likely to be among the hardest hit in the cuts - the very things which audience surveys show are the most valued on the BBC. It's crazy, but it's the result of the failed licence fee strategy and some dubious spending priorities. There must now be serious question marks over the scale of the move to Salford, the future of ultra-local news, the distinctive nature of BBC national news services and a host of major programmes. And it is right people are asking questions about whether the salary of one light entertainment presenter adds more value to the licence fee payer than 600 broadcast journalists

Just as the BBC seem to be promising more repeats so we are getting ready to roll out our Fight for Our BBC campaign which was so successful during the past round of job cuts three years ago.

The BBC Trust are due to consider the plans on 17 October - we certainly gave them a strong message from staff and the unions yesterday that they need to think again and demand the management enter meaningful negotiations with us.

The BBC meeting followed hot on the heels of a Stage 2 Disputes Meeting with management at The Guardian. Tucked away in the basement of a hotel we spent several hours discussing the planned move to 24/7 and cross-media working. We made some small progress but there's a long way to go if management are to avoid a strike. In particular the demand for more hours without any increase in pay just appears to be deliberately provocative.

In the evening I spoke, alongside lawyers, trade unionists and civil rights campaigners, at an event outside the US embassy in London to mark the 9th anniversary of the arrest of the Miami 5, five Cubans who I believe suffered a grave miscarriage of justice. The case has received little media coverage until recently when the BBC World Service interviewed one of the five men. Let's hope now attention is focused on the case justice will be done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good work Jeremy, for keeping us informed even if the news is not good.

Simon Chapman