Strike ballot at Signal Radio over 'news hub' proposal

Journalists at the only commercial radio station in the UK that recognises the NUJ are balloting for industrial action.

According to the union, the three news staff at Signal Radio in Stoke-on-Trent have been told that two of their jobs are being axed.

Parent company UTV Radio plans to move bulletin production for six of its north-west local radio stations to a central “news hub” in Wigan – 50 miles from Stoke.

The proposed hub will serve Signal Radio as well as The Wolf in Wolverhampton, Juice FM in Liverpool, Tower in Bolton, Wire FM in Warrington, and Wish FM in Wigan.

NUJ deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “News hubbing is a trendy word for cutting and running from the communities that radio stations claim to serve.

“Having news for six stations run by overworked journalists in Wigan is a recipe for disaster for listeners and workers.

“This is an issue for radio journalists all over the country. I applaud the NUJ members at Signal for standing up for independent radio news and send them the solidarity of the entire union.”

The Signal Radio journalists have written to local MPs asking them for help.

They wrote: “Signal Radio is a heritage station. It’s been on air for 26 years and used to pride itself on being local.

“Our parent company UTV is proposing Signal’s news output comes from a news hub in Wigan during the afternoon.

“The plan would mean Signal’s newsroom being reduced from an already paltry three journalists to just one.

“That one person would read breakfast news bulletins.cBulletins in the afternoon would be pre-recorded and not live.

“They’d come from a hub in Wigan, 49 miles away from Stoke on Trent. The hub, staffed by six people, would provide bulletins for six stations.

“Staffing levels at that hub would mean three journalists on afternoon shifts doing bulletins for all six stations.

“The company’s latest plan would mean no one in the patch during the afternoon to react to stories.

“It would mean out of date bulletins being produced by people with little or no knowledge of the area.

“In short, Signal news, as people have known it over the last 26 years, would cease to exist.

“We, along with eight other journalists affected by the hubbing plan in the group, have already rejected this proposal and come up with counter proposals to save money.

“Despite ongoing consultation on this matter, UTV is pushing ahead with a parallel programme of informing journalists in the group that they are at risk of redundancy.

“The National Union of Journalists chapel at Signal has voted unanimously for a ballot on possible industrial action.

“This is the last thing we want to do. We would rather be serving our listeners as we have for years. Instead, we’re being forced into a corner.

“We hope you’ll recognise the importance local news plays in any given area and how important it is that Signal maintains a proper local presence.

“We hope you can support us in our fight to save the newsroom at Signal so we can maintain a strong local backbone for this station.”

UTV Radio, which also owns national speech station TalkSport, declined to comment this morning.

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