BBC Scrambles To Avoid Formal Staff Strike After Chaotic Walkout Over Gary Lineker’s Suspension

BBC Scrambles To Avoid Formal Staff Strike After Chaotic Walkout Over Gary Lineker’s Suspension

March 14, 2023

EXCLUSIVE: The BBC has scrambled to avoid further disruption to its schedules after a walkout over Gary Lineker’s suspension canceled Premier League output.

The British broadcaster has been involved in last-ditch talks with trade union leaders to halt the biggest staff strike since 2010 over changes to local programming in England.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) will meet at 10AM today to decide whether the BBC has conceded enough ground to call off industrial action that will derail coverage of the UK government’s Budget.

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The precise outcome of the talks with the BBC is unclear, but one source said there had been “nowhere near enough” movement from the broadcaster, suggesting a strike is likely to go ahead.

Another day of content disruption could be embarrassing for the BBC following the Lineker debacle, during which sports presenters staged a boycott.

Tim Davie, the BBC Director-General, repeatedly apologized for a significantly truncated Match of the Day, the flagship Premier League highlights show, and canceled live radio football coverage.

Reflecting on the most fraught week of his tenure, he said yesterday: “Everyone recognises this has been a difficult period for staff, contributors, presenters and, most importantly, our audiences.”

Some 83% of NUJ members voted in favor of a strike in a postal ballot, with the remaining 17% not supporting a walkout. The turnout was 69%, which was higher than some were expecting.

The first 24-hour walkout is due to start tomorrow at 11AM UK time. The NUJ has confirmed that King Charles III’s Coronation in May and Eurovision are also targets for industrial action.

The plans to make nearly 50 roles redundant across its local services. Radio content is being cut, while the BBC has axed We Are England, a regional documentary TV show.

The BBC has argued that funding for local content is being maintained, but it is reprioritizing £19M ($23M) of resources from traditional broadcast services to online and multimedia production.

The BBC has been approached for comment on the strike talks.

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