Strike possibility strengthens over plans to shut down BBC News

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Because of concerns over plans to shut down the BBC News channel, corporation journalists may go on strike during the BBC’s centenary celebrations.

The plan to combine the UK’s rolling news TV channel and BBC World News, its global commercial stablemate to make a new integrated service BBC News has come under increased scrutiny.

The director general of the BBC, Tim Davie, received a letter from the leader of the Trades Union Congress warning that the closure of the current BBC News channel “would substantially reduce newsgathering and airtime for domestic stories” and have an adverse impact on UK democracy, the Guardian learned.

It echoes the worries expressed by some BBC union members who participated in the consultation vote that led to the approval of industrial action.

A full ballot may now be cast as a result of the high voter participation, which poses a risk to the BBC’s coverage of its 100th anniversary in October.

The planned BBC channel closures and associated loss of 70 jobs are part of Davie’s £500 million cost-cutting and redistribution drive to build a “digital-first” company and assist in achieving cutbacks of £285 million annually required by the government’s two-year licence fee freeze.

On Friday, Davie is scheduled to meet with the news channel personnel, but business insiders are afraid that the director general doesn’t realise the on-screen impact the proposals may have.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, wrote to Davie saying that the news reporting was already more desk-based, and news material was more frequently loaded with interviews with guests who have a political agenda. With limited resources for investigative journalism, specialist reporters, and sourcing stories from workplaces and communities, the proposals seem likely to advance those trends.

While stating that high-quality news coverage was at the centre of the BBC’s most essential public service duties and was critical to the quality of UK media [and] UK democracy, she claimed that the TUC “appreciate the pressures” the BBC was facing as a result of the licence fee being frozen.

O’Grady added that it was even more crucial that the BBC continued to offer a national service of high-quality, unbiased reporting in light of the launch of new competing services like GB News and Rupert Murdoch’s Talk TV.

On Wednesday, it appeared that GB News was getting ready to fill any domestic news gaps that the new BBC News might leave. The daytime schedule of the network had been changed to place a greater emphasis on rolling news, some presenters had left, and two new programmes, GB Newsday and GB News Live, had been added.