NUJ members angry at staff cuts and move from Birmingham

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Journalism (IFJ), Media,

BBC Asian NetworkStaff at the BBC’s Asian Network are to strike over the corporation’s decision to axe one of its two Birmingham-based editor roles and move the Bobby Friction show to London.

The action by NUJ members next Wednesday follows yesterday’s symbolic silent protest.

NUJ BBC rep Keith Murray said: “After sacking half its staff three years ago, we were told no more savings would be needed from the network. Yet they’ve come back for more.

“It’s a beacon of diversity in an organisation which remains predominantly white and middle class. This is true of the management structure at the Asian Network. Staff are stretched to the limit and they’ve had enough. When management threatened staff over plans for a silent protest, members felt forced into taking this action.”

A member of staff on the Asian Network said: “The strike is to demonstrate to the BBC how upset and angry we are at the proposals. The BBC keeps picking on the Asian Network. After axing half the staff in 2012 and halving its budget, we were promised the network would not be asked to make any more cuts. The loss of an editor’s post will increase workload and exacerbate the problems of communication between editors and staff which already exist.”

Bobby Friction’s awarding-winning show, a mix of entertainment, desi, Bollywood and bhangra, makes up a third of all daily live network radio programming broadcast from Birmingham.

Apart from the Archers, the Asian Network is the last remaining network radio output based in the city, leaving the Mailbox, the much-vaunted BBC facility, costing £2.14m a year, half-empty.

Over recent years TV Programmes such as Coast, Countryfile, the Hairy Bikers, and the Radio 4 shows You and Yours, Farming Today, and Costing the Earth have been taken away from the Mailbox and are now made in other parts of the UK.

The Asian Network is the most listened to Asian radio station in the UK, with a weekly reach of 607,000 listeners and average age of 36. This is up from the previous quarter by +46,000/8 per cent and an increase on the previous year by +55,000/+10 per cent.  More than half (52 per cent) of the network’s listeners are women and half are people in C2DEs socio-economic groups; these are all listeners the BBC traditionally finds hard to reach.

The BBC has been criticised for its poor record on representation of BME staff in front and behand the camera. Latest figures from the BBC show a proportion of 13.1 per cent of staff. A spokesman for the corporation said the industry average is 5.4 per cent and that the BBC was implementing plans it believes will make a real difference to diversity across the board.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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