BBC journalists' strike: reports from the picket line

Journalists took to the picket line this morning and the BBC was forced to cancel flagship shows as the first day of 48-hour strike took scores of radio and TV news programmes off the air.

Radio 4’s Today programme was the first big show to feel the effect of the National Union of Journalists calling a walkout of around 4,000 journalists in protest to planned changes to employee pensions. Radio 4 apologised to listeners for replacing Today with pre-recorded programming.

BBC Breakfast News and Radio Five Live were also badly affected this morning as star names joined the protest.

Newsnight, PM, the World at One and the Six O’Clock News are expected to be affected by the walkout which started at midnight with the formation of a picket line at BBC Television Centre in London.

Speaking outside TV Centre, Ian Pollock, a personal finance journalist for the BBC website, accused managers of “a slash and burn approach”, adding: “We’re on strike to try and force the BBC to withdraw its plans to severely damage our pension scheme arrangements.”

Paul Mason, Newsnight economics editor, joined the picket line outside TV Centre’s main gate this morning.

He said: “I’m supporting the strike because the management are trying to steal our accrued pension benefits.

“We want a full objective valuation of the pension scheme and we want our managers to talk to us rather than engaging in a game of long-range insults.

“What we’re on strike for is the right to take a pay cut, so can pay more into our own pensions, so management can pay more and it can become stable.”

Susannah Streeter, a business reporter for BBC news, said high executive pay had fuelled resentment among striking staff.

She said: “There is anger amongst many NUJ members that management and certain executives are getting a very, very good deal while journalists, the people who are actually putting out the news, are not getting a good deal at all.”

She added: “People are realists at the BBC, many journalists do believe that there do need to be changes to reflect the current situation.

“But we should wait until we know what the reality is in the pension deficit because at the moment it is not at all clear.”

The BBC is using its Press Office website to file updates on the schedule changes that the strike has forced it to make.

The BBC said this morning that BBC One Breakfast ran continuously from 6am but was without its usual presenters and it carried no regional news segments, the BBC said.

Radio 3 ran without its normal breakfast show as the corporation was forced to publish revised schedules for Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live as the strike action put big holes in its usual output.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed that the NUJ have gone ahead with today’s industrial action.

“This is despite the other four unions accepting our revised offer, and feedback from staff that indicates the same. It is the public who lose out and we apologise to our audience for any disruption to services.”

Radio 4 replaced the Today programme with documentary strands Lord Kitchener’s Image and Off The Page, peppered with news bulletins broadcast at 6, 7 and 8am. The Bottom Line and Feedback pre-recorded shows are scheduled to replace the World at One later today on the station.

Radio 4’s film programme is to be extended to an hour-and-a-half from 4.30pm to compensate for the loss of PM, while the 6pm news is being replaced with a comedy programme.

Radio Five Live’s Nicky Campbell took part in the strike action today however the 5 Live Breakfast show was broadcast as planned; albeit in a condensed two-hour slot.

Ahead of that broadcast Fighting Talk was extended to make up for Morning Reports which was removed from the 5am slot.

Five Live has also been forced to cut Victoria Derbyshire’s show to one hour of repeats from two of live broadcast while Gaby Logan’s midday show has been replaced with commentary on the first practice at the Brazilian grand prix interspersed with news bulletins.

Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review show has also been reduced in length and will feature repeats while the Five Live drivetime show has also replaced with commentary from the Brazilian grand prix.

Radio Scotland and Good Morning Ulster were both replaced by 5 Live output, the BBC said.

All 40 local radio stations on were on the air with half operating normal service and the others running just core bulletins alongside a reduced service.

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