BBC local staff to strike during May elections over radio cuts

Hundreds of BBC local radio station staff are set to take industrial action on 8 May, the day of the local elections, in protest at plans to cut radio output.

The broadcasting union BECTU has said that staff at 21 of the BBC's local radio stations will be taking action. The dispute centres around plans to reduce the amount of locally produced output, with the BBC proposing to replace local shows with networked programming.

The union has accused the BBC of “kneecapping” its local radio stations, and has called on the broadcaster to withdraw its plans.

Talking about the planned industrial action, BECTU general secretary Gerry Morrissey said: “This industrial action is a clear message to the BBC that we will not sit by and allow them to kneecap our local radio stations.

“The BBC has failed to listen to local radio staff and their audiences, who are rightly outraged by its plans to reduce the quality and quantity of local programming.”

Morrissey added that the union was encouraging listeners to join in the protest, saying: “We’re asking listeners to stand with us and make sure their voices are heard.”

The BBC has said it is “surprised and disappointed” by the industrial action, and that its plans were designed to ensure local radio remains “vibrant and relevant” to local audiences.

The broadcaster said that it had already made changes in response to feedback from staff and the public, and that it had “no plans to close any local radio services”.

It is unclear what impact the industrial action will have on local election coverage, or on the BBC's local radio output. The BBC has said it will continue to provide coverage of the elections across all of its services.