Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pressure builds as papers and broadcasting feel the heat

Heading off to Nottingham today to speak at a Public Service Not Private Profit rally with Mark Serwotka from the PCS and John McDonnell MP. I'll be highlighting our concerns over the future of public service broadcasting at ITV as well as the threat to the BBC posed by top-slicing. Ofcom's report on the issues is due out next week and so it is important we alert as many people as possible, not just in the industry, to the potential devastation facing local and regional news.

Before that I'll be at the Ukraine embassy to mark the anniversary of the murder of journalist Gyorgy Gongadze. Whilst three people have been arrested in connection with the killing the suspicion is that the people behind the murder - believed to go to the highest levels of government - have evaded justice. We will be keeping the pressure up.

Yesterday morning I met with our officials covering Johnston Press to catch up on the latest situation across the group and later on drafted a 4-page letter to Tim Bowdler setting out our concerns at the decisions being made by senior management which we believe are not only leading to short-term job cuts but also jeopardising the long term future of the titles.

It is clear there is likely to be industrial action at several centres following on from the dispute at Sheffield as members have lost confidence in management and fear for jobs and the future of some titles - what's more they believe much of the investment in new media is being wasted because there are just not enough staff to ensure they are producing quality web content.

On Saturday I attended part of our Newsquest Group Chapel to plan a group-wide campaign over stress and workloads which will be launched in the next couple of weeks. I have no doubt the results will show urgent action is needed to tackle the pressures being heaped on journalists at regional and local titles.

And finally...a plug. I know the cheek of it. Now the blog's being used to give free publicity to events. But this one's a good one. The TUC are celebrating 10 years of the Organising Academy with an event on October 14 featuring Brendan Barber and Paul Mason from Newsnight as well as other speakers aimed at discussing how to build stronger unions. Surely we're all up for that...see you there!

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