SAJAforum: BBC Journalists to Strike Over Proposed “Offshoring” of South Asia Services

BBC World ServiceJournalists from across all services of the BBC have resolved to hold two one-day strikes next month, prompted in large part by plans to “offshore” operations for the BBC World Service’s Hindi, Nepali, and Urdu language programming to Delhi, Kathmandu, and Islamabad. From the Guardian:

TV, radio and online news will be disrupted on Friday 3 April and Thursday 9 April after nearly 800 members of the National Union of Journalists chapel at the BBC today voted in favour of industrial action in a national ballot.

More than 1,100 of the union’s nearly 4,000 members at the corporation took part in the vote, 77% of whom voted in favour of a strike.

The most urgent threat of compulsory cuts is at the World Service’s South Asian section, where up to 20 members are at risk, the union has said. Staff in Scotland are also understood to be under threat.

The NUJ general secretary, Jeremy Dear, said: “Journalists at the South Asian services have been fighting a heroic struggle against the outsourcing of their jobs … now they have the weight of thousands of NUJ members at the BBC behind them.” [link]

In late February, journalists within the South Asia services held their own one-day strike to protest the proposed restructuring. In addition to worrying about lost jobs in London, the journalists fear that shifting operations to the subcontinent would compromise the quality and independence of the BBC’s coverage:

Striking members of the BBC’s South Asia service on February 26, 2009 (Photo: BECTU)Staff are concerned that moving production of these BBC language services abroad will result in poorer output and a loss of independence which is integral to the BBC World Service.

One member commented: “If the BBC’s succeeds in imposing change, the tendency will be for the output to become more and more India-centric, in the case of the India service, as they try to compete with local FM broadcasters.

“This moves away from the World Service’s USP: impartial news with a global perspective. Why should the British taxpayer end up paying for a local Indian radio station?” [link]

The International Federation of Journalists has echoed these concerns, asserting that “the BBC management’s off-shoring plans will put at risk seventy years of first-class journalism and expose their journalists to political and commercial pressures beyond their control.” On the eve of last month’s one-day strike, John McDonnell, a Labour MP for west London, elaborated upon these concerns even further:

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