BBC Strike Causes Disruption in News Programs

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The public broadcaster apologizes to viewers and listeners for interruptions during the 12-hour strike.

LONDON – The BBC apologized Thursday for disruption to its services – mostly live shows and news bulletins – after staff members belonging to the the National Union of Journalists and Bectu, representing technical staff, held a 12-hour strike.

The strike by members came amid a dispute over job cuts, workload and claims of bullying at the corporation.

The unions, whose members voted in favor of the walkouts earlier this month, had warned the strike would affect programs, including news bulletins.

The BBC News and BBC World channels both switched to a pre-recorded broadcast at noon GMT, when the strike began.

Since then both channels have broadcast a mixture of live news bulletins and pre-recorded programs.

Newsnight, one of the BBC's highest profile news shows which has hit the headlines in the last few months in the fallout from the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, was not broadcast Thursday evening.

Both BBC One's two evening bulletins ran albeit at slightly shorter running times than usual.

The corporation is cutting about 2,000 jobs over five years as part of its Delivering Quality First (DQF) program.

The jobs will be shed mostly through voluntary redundancy, but 110 staff have been made compulsorily redundant.

The unions have called for a six-month moratorium on further post closures to allow for a review of workplace issues - but the BBC has said this would increase the savings it eventually has to find.

The unions also said they had submitted a dossier detailing "shocking levels" of bullying and harassment to an internal BBC inquiry, called Respect at Work, being conducted by Dinah Rose QC.

The NUJ vote was 61 percent in favour of stoppages, while backing among Bectu members was 56%., according to the BBC itself.

One of the unions supporting the strike, Bectu, said that the BBC leadership is looking to create “a modern-day BBC sweatshop.”

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of Bectu, said: "Our members are suffering because the BBC thinks it can deliver the same levels of output with many fewer staff."

The move follows a 24-hour strike on Feb. 18 over compulsory redundancies, which forced the BBC to air reruns and alternative programming instead of flagship TV morning show Breakfast and other news programs.

The BBC said it was "extremely disappointed" the unions had gone ahead with the latest strike action and apologized in advance to audiences for any disruption to services.

A spokesman said: "We have had constructive meetings with the Unions in recent weeks and whilst we’re unable to postpone planned compulsory redundancies for six months as they requested, we do agree that stress and workload are areas of real concern. If workloads are going up because of the pressures of working in a 24/7 digital media environment and implementing savings, it’s in everyone’s interest to understand the issues and work with individuals, their managers and the unions to address it."