17 November 2011
BECTU members at BBC Birmingham are calling on MPs to back their protests over the Corporation's plans to decimate programme production in the Midlands.
An Early Day Motion, drawn up with the help of representatives in Equity, highlights the damaging impact of plans for BBC Birmingham set out in Delivering Quality First.
Union members are being asked to contact their MPs urgently to build support for the campaign to stop the planned large-scale relocation of factual production from Birmingham to Bristol.
When Delivering Quality First (DQF) was launched on 6 October staff at the city centre Mailbox building responded with anger at the threat to 150 skilled staff jobs in England's second city.
The Midlands region is already suffering heavily from the recession.
The BBC's plans have been condemned as a slap in the face for staff at the Mailbox who have worked to establish a "modern and cost effective" production base which showcases digital production techniques admired by other parts of the BBC and beyond.
Staff maintain that the relocation of production to Bristol will increase costs, the reverse of the BBC's stated intention.
There is concern too over the pitiful message which BBC executives are sending to a major UK region.
"Just having regional TV news here is not sufficient: Birmingham is our [England's] second biggest city, we should be making television that reflects our region's importance to the UK economy. At a time when people are demanding more insight into rural and environmental issues, BBC Birmingham should be at the forefront of meeting this challenge," says a BECTU campaign statement.
The BBC's plans also want to rob the centre of content it provides for Radio 4 including Farming Today, The Food Programme, Costing the Earth and Ramblings. And with other production for Radio 2 set to move to the BBC's new base in Salford this would leave only production of The Archers at the Mailbox.
"... whilst this [The Archers] is clearly a 'treasure' it doesn't feel like a 'critical mass' for a sustainable future. It also means that the radio drama studio in Birmingham, a first class facility, will be mothballed for most of the time. This is a waste but so is the cost of building the facilities that will be needed for the other output to come from Bristol," the statement continues.
The unions' campaign also decries plans to cut staffing for the Asian Network by half.
"This will not just affect the output, but reverses the positive trend of introducing new talent to the wider BBC and shuts down a career route for the diverse population in our region."
Take part in the consultations
Supporters are being urged to take part in the BBC Trust's consultation on DQF; views are also being sought on the future for the Asian Network and for local radio services which are threatened with cuts in output of 22 per cent. All consultations close on 21 December 2011.
Senior management's plans for BBC Birmingham have left staff and the substantial freelance community reeling.
There are also concerns that the Corporation's planned departure from the Midlands will jeopardise the region's educational investment in arts and media - popular daytime soap Doctors is made on the University of Birmingham's campus - and will deprive the region's young workforce of precious opportunities.
Early Day Motion 2373
The text of the Early Day Motion on DQF is as follows:
That this House is concerned at the BBC's plans to transfer much of its work away from Birmingham; believes that this will have a damaging effect on the life and economy of the West Midlands; notes the impact of the loss of over 150 skilled positions, mainly in production, post-production and other skilled work, affecting the entire Midlands digital media industry and the area's freelancers; further notes that the BBC's current plans will mean there will be virtually no network television made in the West Midlands and productions such as Countryfile, Coast, Hairy Bikers and Points of View will no longer be produced in Birmingham; further believes that this damage will become irreversible as the region will no longer be able to attract the media companies and skilled workers that form the basis of this viable economy; further believes that investment in media production across the region's universities and colleges will prove to be redundant; and calls on the BBC to reconsider its proposals and maintain television and radio production in Birmingham.
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BBC could face strike action
BBC staff across the UK are currently voting in a ballot for strike action over DQF. The results of the ballots amongst members of BECTU, the NUJ and Unite, will be known on 24 November.
In addition plans are underway for a lobby of Parliament on Tuesday 6 December; a day of activities will conclude with a public meeting in the House of Commons (Committee Room 14) from 18.30.
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