Newsnight and The World at One were among the programmes forced off air yesterday as journalists at the BBC walked out for the second time in three weeks – and management and unions argued about how well the action was supported.
Radio 4's Today programme ran but was an hour shorter than usual, while a string of unknowns led by a former ITV regional news presenter led the news bulletins. Gavin Grey, who used to work for ITV Meridian, fronted the 1pm bulletin, while the Six O'Clock bulletin was presented by Chris Rogers, a BBC News stand-in.
Lucy Adams, the BBC's director of business operations Lucy Adams said "six out of seven staff" were working with "all our services on air" and "limited changes to planned programming" with the BBC's 24 hour news channel remaining on air.
Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said it was "absolutely ludicrous" to suggest such a high level of staffing, which she said was "completely untrue".
"The NUJ has several thousand members at the BBC and there have been only a handful of reports of people crossing the picket lines," said Stanistreet, who suggested BBC management was living in "fantasy land".
The strike followed an earlier 24-hour walkout on 15 July in protest at compulsory redundancies at the BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring, where the corporation is looking to axe 387 posts because of cuts in government funding.
Explaining his decision to come in, Radio 5 Live's Nicky Campbell said he had consulted widely with colleagues but could not find anyone who supported the strike, and felt a responsibility to licence fee payers to come into work. "I supported the pension strike and I supported this strike last time round [on 15 July] but ultimately we have a responsibility to the people who pay us," said Campbell.
Picket lines were lightly staffed, with six people outside White City, the home of BBC Television, at lunchtime, and three at Broadcasting House, where the radio stations transmit from. However, the mood outside the World Service's Bush House HQ – where the dispute is centred – was more defiant.
A 20-strong picket line held a giant sheet with the words, "BBC kills World Service". Martin Plaut, Africa editor at the World Service, said: "I'm furious to be on strike today. I'm really not happy at all. In all my time at the BBC – I joined in 1984 – I've never seen the BBC in this state."
The strike was due to end at midnight on Monday, and will immediately be followed by an "indefinite" work to rule by NUJ members.
All broadcasting unions are due to meet BBC management on 11 August to discuss the corporation's stance on redundancies in the light of further impending cuts as a result of director general Mark Thompson's Delivering Quality First initiative, which is aimed to make cost savings of 20%, as the corporation contends with a flat licence fee settlement.
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