British Prime Minister Dismissive of BBC Strike, Financial Concerns

4:24 AM PST 02/19/2013 by Ralf Ludemann, Georg Szalai
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David Cameron says the U.K. public broadcaster remains well-funded, but a journalists' union criticizes him as "clueless."

LONDON – British Prime Minister David Cameron has dismissed Monday's strike by BBC journalists and suggestions that the U.K. public broadcaster's financial position was challenged, according to the Guardian.

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He contrasted a six-year freeze in the license fee that U.K. taxpayers must pay to help fund the BBC with cuts to some public spending. The license fee deal was reached in 2010.

"I think the license fee settlement we came to in 2010 was a fair one," Cameron said. "When you look at what other institutions have had to bear in terms of efficiencies, I think that freeze in the license fee and taking on some additional costs was a good outcome."

Concluded Cameron: "So I think the BBC is a well funded broadcaster, and I am sure it has got the resources necessary to cover important things going on in the world."

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Thousands of BBC journalists joined in the 24-hour strike on Monday, forcing flagship news programs, including the Breakfast morning TV show, evening magazine show Newsnight and Radio 4's Today off the air. The National Union of Journalists organized the strike in protest of cost-saving measures, dubbed Delivering Quality First by BBC bosses.

About 2,000 jobs are expected to be eliminated over seven years as part of the BBC cuts. The union particularly spoke out against a few dozen of the cuts, arguing that they would endanger the BBC's reputation for quality journalism.

The BBC said it was "disappointed" with the labor action, adding that it would not change the fact that it has to make "significant" savings.

The union on Tuesday criticized Cameron for his comments. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet accused the Conservative Party leader as putting the BBC on "a path to decline." She suggested that "he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing," the Guardian quoted her as saying. "He's clueless about the need for working people to fight for jobs and public services."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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