Welcome to the NUJ Broadcasting Blog. It contains material from the NUJ broadcasting team.
The views represented are not necessarily those of the NUJ.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Spent the day sorting out a power cut at home, having to be resourceful to get keep the laptop and mobile charged up. Spent some of the time preparing for the upcoming strike ballot at the BBC. Our members are to be balloted because the BBC is seeking to force through a number of compulsory redundancies. It's an unnecessary act. They have the scale and financial stability to manage budget changes and job cuts in a sensible way. We have been successful in forcing the BBC to spend its money wisely, not wasting it on redundancy payments. On an average week, the BBC is recruiting for over 200 jobs. To try and force through a handful of redundancies is madness. It hasn't come to a ballot for some years. At a time when the industry is facing serious issues, no-one should be forced out of a job if it can be avoided.

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Monday, 2 February 2009

South Asia strike ballot begins

Ballot papers go out today to NUJ members of the World Service South Asia Services. They have been engaged in a long running battle against offshore outsourcing. John McDonnell spoke in parliament about the issues, although it's quite a long extract I think it gives a good account of what we are dealing with;

16 Dec 2008 : 10.14 am

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I am a Member of
Parliament for a multicultural west London constituency. A number of
my constituents work at the BBC and some in the World Service, and
most have a direct interest in it.

Kofi Annan called the BBC World Service the best gift to the world
from London. Some of us worry that that gift is under the threat of
diminution by the policies of the BBC management. The outgoing
director of the World Service, Nigel Chapman, said that he wanted to
outsource at least 50 per cent. of World Service programming to the
respective countries. That sounds like any other outsourcing, but it
threatens the quality, standards and objectivity of the broadcast
service. The World Service is an independent international broadcaster
and is famous for the refrain, "This is London calling." Without the
geographical distance, it ceases to be independent.

Members of the National Union of Journalists and the Broadcasting
Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union from the south Asia
region of the World Service are campaigning to save three language
services that are under threat from plans to offshore their jobs and
the output. The BBC Hindi, Urdu and Nepali services will be seriously
undermined if those plans go ahead. Staff have resisted the plans for
over a year and through negotiations have sought an agreement that
preserves the fundamental World Service principles: quality, integrity
and, above all else, independence. Those talks are ongoing but seem
likely to stall this week as management wants to forge ahead with its
plans without agreement.

Under management proposals, editorial control will be ceded from the
UK in favour of localised output in Nepal, India and Pakistan.
Questions have been raised over the BBC's ability to retain editorial
independence. Staff discovered a deal struck with the Pakistan
regulatory body to give authorities in Islamabad the power to hear
bulletins prior to broadcast. Although the management claim that no
such arrangement exists, it is important that nothing is done that
jeopardises the BBC's editorial independence. Those allegations
warrant further investigation and there should be an independent
Foreign Office investigation.

The reputation of the World Service has been built over decades.
Millions of listeners rely upon the World Service because they trust
it to be an independent voice. Localising editorial control in
countries such as Pakistan and Nepal will bring unacceptable pressures
to staff in those territories. While we believe that all BBC staff
will fight to maintain its independence, it is in the strong interests
of the BBC to ensure that its staff can act free from external
influence. That is difficult enough even in this country with the
constant political pressure. The threats are more direct from foreign
Governments in some areas of the globe.

The BBC has set up private companies in India, Pakistan and Nepal that
pave the way for localised commercial businesses. Such businesses will
have to comply with local commercial law and will not be governed from
the UK, as they are now. The NUJ and BECTU have been asking for
details of those companies and their planned and present activities.
Management has thus far failed to give any meaningful information or
assurances. If the BBC offshores not only output but editorial control
to overseas territories, that too will have to comply with local media
regulation. The fear is that the freedom of the press is variable in
such territories, and that that will impact on World Service output.

Staff who have served the BBC and the country well for decades are
anxious that their professionalism and independence is under threat.
If we do not act now and if the Government do not take a serious
interest in this matter, we will live to regret it in future years.
There must be a review of the policy of localising editorial control
and an end to the dismantling of the World Service in certain parts of
the globe, which we have seen over recent years. The Thai service is
just one example of where we have lived to regret the withdrawal of a
service in a key part of the world. It must be asserted that editorial
control over World Service output will be retained in the UK and there
must be an end to outsourcing in this way. Any job losses in the UK
need to be negotiated to ensure that at least there is no compulsory
redundancy or loss of editorial integrity and that BBC management goes
forward with the wholehearted support of employees and the confidence
of the wider community.

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