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Strike off but morale plummets at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

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A threatened strike of local radio journalists – including those at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire – has been called off.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members in local radio had threatened a 24 hour walk out as part of a campaign to halt widespread redundancies and a major shake up of local radio. It would have affected local election coverage.

The BBC has removed the threat of redundancy from 300 journalists, but jobs could still be lost in local radio as broadcasting hours are slashed.

The BBC is reducing output at its 39 local radio stations, and in recent months presenters – many of them familiar voices in their own regions – have been told they will lose their jobs once the new programme schedules are announced.

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Which presenters will stay or leave Radio Cambridgeshire has not been revealed, but elsewhere many familiar presenters have revealed their fate on social media, explaining they had been unsuccessful in re-applying for their old job.

On Twitter the outpouring of anger over presenters being axed has been cruelly dubbed #hungergames but sources inside BBC Radio Cambridgeshire say it is “just like that”.

The only openly public comment about the state of affairs at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire has been from its NUJ official at the station, Keith Murray.

Prior to yesterday’s announcement by the BBC over their new stance on redundancies, he had tweeted: “I’ve spent the last year retraining within the BBC, at their expense, only to find out that the corporation isn’t interested in my new skills and I’m now facing a similar fate, alongside loads of colleagues.”

 

He tweeted to BBC presenter Andy Comfort – who has lost his role on Humberside – “I am here for you too and full square with the NUJ behind us. #Solidarity in the face of madness.”

Andy had tweeted that “I reapplied for my job – one of fewer roles.

“I was unsuccessful, and I am now talking to the BBC to try to avoid compulsory redundancy. I don’t want to talk about the process, but it hasn’t been easy”.

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One current BBC Radio Cambridgeshire staff member has told friends that “today I was one of many to be told I haven’t got the job I was essentially forced into going for.

“Yet on the same day, we (at Radio Cambs) we hear that a newbie, with less than a year’s experience has been given a new senior production job, catapulting them above the likes of more senior and experienced staff”.

One source told me: “There is no life left in people or morale at BBC Cambs. The place right now is horrible.”

The same source explained that regular presenters are staying quiet about their potential redundancy “for fear of losing future freelance shift work. It’s a dreadful state of affairs”.

How much will change as a result of a revised last-minute deal brokered by arbitrator ACAS is not yet clear.

However, it is expected that the threat of compulsory redundancy among it 300 journalists in local radio will be removed.

The BBC had previously proposed the loss of 139 jobs in local radio but a near similar number being recruited to work on local digital journalism.

A consultative ballot is under way that includes guarantees on deployment and some extra programmes being added to the revised schedule. Under the previous proposals announced last October, the BBC said there would be greater programme sharing on local radio after 2pm daily and at weekends.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said yesterday that she felt members action to date “has been hugely impactful”.

She said a work to rule had built “massive cumulative pressure, not least because it has demonstrated to BBC bosses outside of BBC Local just how much work is done in local BBC sites because of the sheer amount of professionalism, good will, and acting up of members day in day out.

“It’s a result of that pressure that the BBC got back around the table this week, into talks brokered by ACAS, leading to a revised proposal that is going out to all our BBC Local members”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We are hopeful for a positive outcome to resolve the current industrial action.

“Our aim is to achieve a better balance between our local online and broadcast services at a time when millions of people increasingly turn to their mobile first for news and information.

 

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