Do BBC staff have the right to threaten a national historic event?

Posted on: April 30, 2012

Today BBC chiefs warned their staff not to damage the organisation’s reputation by striking – but what dilemma do they face if they did?

As the BBC prepares for its biggest summer of live events ever seen, perhaps the organisation should really be looking after staff a little more carefully. Earlier this month broadcasting unions asked BBC staff to ballot for strike action following a “hostile” pay rise offer of just 1%. The strikes plan to directly target the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in early June, pulling the plug on a series of high-profile events across the bank holiday weekend that celebrate the monarchy’s 60 year reign.

Unions and the staff themselves are clearly protecting their rights to a wage increase as their salaries have apparently fallen 8% behind inflation since 2007, but the BBC say their offer will not change regardless of strike action. Though it may seem fair to take a stance against the pay offer, can those behind event coverage operations justify boycotting a national event of such historic importance?

Sure, other channel providers will be covering the Diamond Jubilee extensively, but should the British Broadcasting Corporation miss out on this rare Royal celebration in what is an undoubtedly patriotic year for Britain, it would severely damage their reputation. It would be like Sky Sports not reporting on Euro 2012 football. It’s surely their responsibility to saturate our tv screens with her majesty and thousands of flag waving Britons .

The director of news at the BBC, Helen Boaden, certainly recognised that strike action would fail licence fee payers “at a national major moment”, as she urged staff not to strike during the Jubilee event. It was reported today that in an email Boaden claimed that viewers would not tolerate disruption and they would lose faith in the organisation for not serving its responsibilities to audiences.

With the Murdoch empire controlling a large part of the national press and advertisements every 10 minutes on some commercial stations, perhaps we really should support the BBC staff and recognise how valuable they are – particularly if their chief overheads are taking them for granted.

The results of the ballot are yet to be seen, as an announcement over the strike action is expected by May 21st. Though striking action at the BBC is far from anything new, these threats jeopardise the television, radio and online at the core of the UK media at a time when the entire world is watching. If the strikes disrupted coverage of the Wimbledon championships, the British Grand Prix, the British Open Golf tournament and, of course, the London Olympic Games – then it’s not just the BBC under threat but the reputation of this country. BBC bosses, please, stop being so stubborn.


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