I was up at the crack of dawn today to picket the first shift at the nearest BBC studio to where I live, BBC Oxford. By then thousands of BBC journalists responded to the call by the NUJ to strike for 24 hours in defense of jobs. In some of the London centres the stoppage started with the change of shifts at midnight.
The writing has been on the wall since NUJ negotiators felt that the BBC was spoiling for a fight. Usually both sides have always agreed that there should be no compulsory redundancies. This time however BBC management refused to make any concession hoping to browbeat the union and push through their planned redundancies without caring about the impact upon millions of listeners and viewers. Attempts by the union to use conciliations were rebuffed.
The strike was solid everywhere and several flagship programmes have been cancelled with huge disruption hitting most stations.
This dispute is taking place at a time when all eyes are on the unfolding phone hacking scandal and the ructions inside the Murdoch empire. The NUJ is making sure that the current cuts and job losses, which are now causing a major crisis within the BBC, are seen within the context of the malignant influence by Murdoch on politicians. They denounced today the cuts they had to fights as a direct result of the decision by government to freeze the licence for the next six year which they see as a shabby deal done behind closed doors between management and government at a time when Murdoch was putting huge pressure on politicians in the run up to the general election.
In the weeks to come the various enquiries will attempt to unravel how Prime Minister Cameron and others at the heart of government have been pandering to Rupert Murdoch and his commercial interests.
The IFJ will be joining the NUJ in calling for the licence fee deal to be re-examined in light of recent events. The deal should be scrapped and instead an open debate involving staff and listeners and viewers held to determine the future funding the BBC.