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BECTU demands urgent BBC meeting over loss of Songs of Praise

10 March 2017

Broadcasting union BECTU is demanding protection for long-serving BBC staff members who do not wish to be compulsorily transferred to an independent production company.

This follows today’s announcement that the contract for the BBC1 flagship religious programme Songs of Praise has been awarded externally. 

The BBC agreed during the Charter renewal negotiations that they would put all BBC programmes up for competition over a period of 11 years. The first tranche of four programmes includes Songs of Praise, A Question of Sport, Horizon and Holby City. Currently A Question of Sport will remain in-house but today the BBC announced that Songs of Praise will in future be made by Avanti Media and Nine Lives Media. 

About 30 BBC staff, all based at MediaCityUK in Salford, work on the programme plus more on fixed-term contracts. The transfer of staff under TUPE is set to take place in July.

BECTU has secured agreements with the BBC to protect people’s terms and conditions including redundancy terms. But after many meetings with members the union is aware of a number of staff who are long-serving and have no desire to work for anyone but the BBC. Therefore one of BECTU’s demands is that those staff be redeployed within the BBC or have the option of voluntary redundancy.

BECTU is also asking for clarification from the BBC that the successful bid was always a joint bid and never two separate bids.

A bad start for BBC Studios Ltd

Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU, said:

“It had been suggested to BECTU that Nine Lives and Avanti put in separate bids, not a joint bid. We want assurances from the BBC that at the closing date the successful bid was a joint bid from Nine Lives and Avanti.

“With in-house production losing this major production all of our worst fears are confirmed: programmes going outside the BBC, jobs being lost – the BBC has a lot of explaining to do about this process.”

Gerry Morrissey added:

“We will be having a meeting with members on Monday 13 March. We will also be holding urgent meetings with the BBC and BBC Studios as well as beginning discussions with Avanti and Nine Lives for those staff who do want to transfer over.”

BECTU is also disappointed that today's BBC announcement does not recognise the huge contribution made by long-serving staff on Songs of Praise. The union will be demanding that the BBC sits up and takes the demands of staff seriously.

“This is a really bad start for BBC Studios Ltd, losing one of its flagship BBC1 programmes,” said Gerry Morrissey. “We demand better transparency over how this happened.”

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