Mark Thompson: Audience is the big loser in the BBC strike

BBC director general Mark Thompson said this morning that the 48-hour strike action taken by the corporation’s 4,000 journalists would impact licence fee payers worst.

Writing on his blog this morning, Thompson said that much of the BBC’s scheduled programming would be unaffected by the strike, however, he conceded that some programmes would be disrupted.

The disruption has perhaps been more widespread that he suggests as scores of programmes have been dropped – including Radio 4’s Today – and schedules rearranged as some of the corporation’s big name presenters take to the picket line.

Thompson was keen to stress the affect the strike would have on viewership, saying: “It has never been more important to ensure the BBC is spending every penny of licence fee payers’ money wisely and delivering the quality programmes and services audiences want. We believe the current pension proposals are realistic and affordable, and will provide fair pension provision for BBC staff for the future.

“This has been a difficult period for staff. However, the people who lose out most in any strike action are the very people we are here to serve – our audiences.”

Asked yesterday if he feared a backlash over the strike, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists Jeremy Dear told Press Gazette he thought the public would understand the fight over pensions.

He said: ‘Anywhere in the public sector, or anywhere people get decent salaries, it is incredibly difficult in this economic climate to make an argument that will convince readers of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph that somehow we are justified in doing this.

‘What people do understand is that pensions people have saved for and paid for every month of their working life, for them now to be devalued and worth less than they have a right to expect is something that people have sympathy with.”

The BBC is updating its Press Office website with news of how services will be disrupted throughout the day.

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