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Top BBC names in picket line for jobs protest

Some of BBC Northern Ireland's star names swapped the TV studios for the picket line yesterday as they staged a 24-hour walkout in protest over job losses at the corporation.

Staff in Belfast joined with colleagues in London and across the UK who went on strike in a row over World Service journalists facing compulsory redundancy.

Among those on the street were high-profile presenters and journalists, including Mervyn Jess, Stephen Walker and Chris Page.

Mr Jess, who has worked with BBC NI for 23 years, said there had been strong support.

He said: "This is not specific to Northern Ireland, rather we are out in solidarity with our colleagues in World Service and Monitoring, which is where the compulsory redundancies are taking place."

While a skeleton staff of freelance workers and non-union journalists ensured the BBC's news channel, radio and online service continued, its output was significantly affected.

Flagship programmes including Good Morning Ulster and The Nolan Show were both forced off air, while the 6.30pm Newsline bulletin was also replaced with a shorter broadcast.

BBC News Channel coverage took over from BBC One's Breakfast programme while on 5 Live regular breakfast hosts Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden were replaced by Ian Payne and Julia Bradbury. The walkout was sparked when members of the National Union of Journalists voted in favour of industrial action as World Service and BBC Monitoring staff face job losses this summer.

In Belfast yesterday, NUJ members maintained a presence outside Broadcasting House at Ormeau Avenue throughout the day.

Many were holding banners while others handed out leaflets to passers-by urging them to show solidarity with the protest.

One journalist, who didn't want to be named, said: "Cutting jobs is not the way to save money - there are many other ways to save cash in the BBC."

The BBC said it would continue with its efforts to reduce the need for compulsory redundancies.

A spokesman said: "Industrial action will not alter the fact that the BBC is faced with a number of potential compulsory redundancies following significant cuts to the central Government grants that support the World Service and BBC Monitoring.

Another 24-hour walkout is planned for July 29.

Factfile

SERVICES DISRUPTED

Radio Ulster

6.30am-9am: Good Morning Ulster

9am-10.30am: The Nolan Show

12pm-1.30pm: Talkback

5pm-6.30pm: Evening Extra

Radio Foyle

7am-9am: Breakfast

1pm-3pm: Lunchtime With Mark Patterson

BBC Newsline

Two five-minute BBC Newsline broadcasts after the news at 1pm and 6pm.

Belfast Telegraph


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