Union makes FoI bid to see secret BBC job cut papers

By Caitlin Pike

The NUJ has served a Freedom of Information request on the BBC in a
bid to obtain background documents relating to swingeing job cuts
announced last month.

Its request demands access to minutes, correspondence and copies of
analysis and reports provided to BBC governors before they approved
director general Mark Thompson’s plan to cut almost 4,000 jobs and sell
off parts of the corporation.

The NUJ has also asked to see records or details of communication between the BBC and the Government over the past year.

NUJ
general secretary Jeremy Dear told Press Gazette: “We hope this move
will demonstrate that insufficient analysis and checks have been
carried out to ensure cuts don’t damage and devalue programmes or act
against the interest of licence fee payers.

“Secondly we hope it
will reveal that there has been communication between the BBC and
government showing that cuts were made at the request of government.”

“We
are constantly told that every care was taken to ensure the savage cuts
would not affect quality, standards, programmes or the health and
safety of staff – but we’ve never been shown any evidence, not even a
single piece of paper to back such wild claims up.”

The request
for documents from the BBC also asks for details of any actions taken
by the governors to ascertain the views of staff in relation to the
cuts.

Many are understood to be particularly angry at what they
regard as a secretive process which failed to incorporate any staff
consultation.

The corporation has to respond to the NUJ’s request
within 20 days, and although there are some exemptions when it comes to
the BBC and FoI, Dear believes that they do not apply to the
information the NUJ has asked to see.

If BBC management do reject
any of the requests, Dear has asked “that they justify all deletions by
reference to specific exemptions of the act” and said he would appeal
if the request was denied.

The request comes in the same week NUJ
members at BBC News 24 began a protest at work – withdrawing all
“goodwill” – in response to job cuts planned for the channel (see page
5).

Other BBC departments are expected to follow. The joint union
ballot of staff across the BBC for industrial action begins today and
closes on 11 May.

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