BBC NI coverage of local elections taken off air as journalists strike

Around 200 NUJ members taking industrial action as council votes counted over cuts to jobs and programmes

BBC Northern Ireland’s coverage of council election results has been taken off air after more than 200 journalists went on strike on Friday.

The members of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are taking industrial action over cuts to jobs and programmes, including the reduction of BBC Radio Foyle’s two-hour breakfast news programme to half an hour.

Last-minute talks aimed at averting the strike broke down on Thursday after the union said sufficient progress had not been made.

It is understood the nature of the dispute has now widened to reflect frustrations over pay and conditions.


Speaking on the BBC, NUJ representative Paul Siegert said “there isn’t one problem, there is a series of problems”.

“The breakfast show at [BBC Radio] Foyle, which was two hours and is just 30 minutes, is one of the key issues we are trying to resolve,” he said, adding that there was a “general unhappiness” in the Belfast newsroom and problems had built up over time.

The strike meant that the BBC’s plans for television programmes to cover the results of the council elections on BBC Northern Ireland and programmes on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle had to be cancelled on Friday.

Voting took place in the council elections in the North on Thursday, with the count expected to take place over two days, Friday and Saturday.

A plan to work to rule by NUJ members on Saturday, which could have affected results coverage, has been suspended.

On Friday, BBC Radio Ulster’s schedule was replaced by national programmes from BBC Five Live, with news bulletins on Friday morning read by its director in Northern Ireland, Adam Smyth.

NUJ assistant secretary Seamus Dooley said the decision to strike “on such a significant news day has not been taken lightly and reflects frustration on the part of NUJ members”.

“They want to report the news rather than make their own headlines,” he said, adding that it was “regrettable they find themselves in this situation”.

He said the strike was part of a “wider union campaign across the UK to defend public service broadcasting.”

A BBC spokesperson said the corporation “deeply regrets the negative impact strike action will have on BBC services on election results day”.

The BBC was “glad to have been able to offer roles to all ‘at risk’ staff during the redundancy process”.

“The BBC’s region-wide programming from Foyle has been increased and its net staffing levels will be maintained. Our engagement with staff and the trade unions will continue,” it said.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times