BBC has announced proposals that mean the butchering of the news service on BBC Radio Foyle. Foyle serves Derry and the surrounding area. Without a news service it is hard to see the station surviving in the long term.
This is part of a proposal to cut 36 journalists’ jobs across the BBC in Northern Ireland. That is 5% of the workforce.
In Foyle, eight of the 12 journalists’ jobs are to go. However, BBC management show an amazing generosity. The eight will be given a chance to apply for one job as a digital journalist.
So the reality is that the station’s news service will be effectively ended. At present Foyle’s newsroom produces a one-hour morning programme; hourly bulletins through the day till 5pm; and a half-hour lunchtime programme. Everything is to go except the half-hour lunchtime programme.
As a result there is deep anger in Derry and the surrounding area. The Foyle newsroom is admired for the way it shines a light on local issues. That is important because staffing on Derry’s three local papers has been greatly reduced.
Thus public attitudes were reflected in Monday’s (Nov 29th) meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council. The Council unanimously opposed the cuts.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) will be consulting its members in BBC Northern Ireland about action to oppose the butchery. It is understood that only statutory redundancy terms are on offer.
Back in the noughties there was an earlier attempt to close Foyle. The NUJ locally, with backing from the wider union, launched a campaign. That led to the station being saved.
This time the level of support has been a morale-booster for NUJ members. Foyle journalist David Hunter has tweeted: “Thank you to everyone who has offered us immense support today after the proposals to cut BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast show and hourly news bulletins. We are overwhelmed by the well wishes and will keep telling your stories for as long as we can!”