Flagship shows cancelled as BBC journalists strike over job cuts

LONDON (AFP) - BBC journalists staged a 24-hour strike on Monday to protest job cuts, preventing the transmission of the flagship Today morning news programme and several other television and radio shows.

Members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) walked out on Sunday over compulsory redundancies expected to affect BBC Scotland, Radio 5 Live, the Asian Network and the World Service. The strike was called at the world's biggest broadcaster after union leaders and managers failed to agree the redeployment of 30 staff facing the axe.

Picket lines were set up outside studios across the country as Radio 4's flagship news shows Today, World at One at lunchtime and PM in the afternoon, and television's BBC Breakfast, were replaced by pre-recorded shows.

The NUJ claims the BBC has lost more than 7,000 jobs since 2004, and it plans to cut a further 2,000 jobs as it slashes its budget by 20 per cent. The budget cuts are being driven by a fall in the revenue the corporation gets from the licence fee, which is paid by everyone in Britain with a television. The licence fee is currently 145.50 pounds (S$279).

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said her members were striking "to defend jobs and quality journalism at the corporation", saying they want talks to resume over the redundancies, as well as a moratorium on job cuts until April.

"They are angry and frustrated at the poor decisions being taken at the top of the BBC - decisions that are leading to journalists being forced out of their jobs and quality journalism and programming compromised," she said.

The strike comes as the BBC struggles to restore order in its ranks following the crisis over child sex abuse allegations against the late presenter Jimmy Savile, which exposed infighting and chaos at every level of the corporation.

In a statement, the BBC apologised for Monday's disruption. "We are disappointed that the NUJ has gone ahead with today's strike and apologise to our audience for the disruption to services," a spokesman said.

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