the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

18 August 2011

BECTU members at the Rampisham transmitter site in Dorset run by Babcock Engineering were shocked to learn yesterday (17 August) of plans to close the facility by Christmas with the loss of 19 jobs.

Staff across the UK had been expecting bad news after the decision by BBC World Service in January this year to sharply reduce the number of hours of shortwave broadcasting and to end it altogether by 2014.

Despite this advance warning, yesterday's announcement still came as a shock. The company also plans to close three posts at the Woofferton site in Shropshire with four at Orford Ness in Suffolk also at risk of closure.

An initial meeting between BECTU representatives and management took place yesterday; the consultation period is due to end on 19 September.

Assistant general secretary Luke Crawley said:

“The loss of 19 jobs at Rampisham and seven elsewhere in the network will come as a terrible blow to our members. We have already pressed the management to do everything they can to minimise the impact including offering redeployment and retraining where appropriate. Transmission members will note with regret that this announcement will also end seventy years of shortwave broadcasting from Rampisham.”

Criticism of the FCO

BECTU has strongly criticised the coalition government for pushing through a 16 per cent cut in the grant provided to the World Service from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This was considerably higher than the 10 per cent cut in the FCO budget for other areas. It was this disproportionate reduction which lead the BBC to decide to reduce shortwave broadcasts immediately and end them by 2014.

BECTU’s campaign against the unfair settlement included giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in Parliament. The highly critical report which followed led to some funds being restored to the World Service. However the representations did not persuade the BBC to change its mind about ending shortwave transmission despite the fact that listeners to shortwave make up half of the World Service audience.