BBC Radio Foyle staff cuts and Breakfast Show axe branded 'a betrayal' by NUJ

The National Union of Journalists has branded the job cuts and loss of a flagship programme on BBC Radio Foyle as a betrayal.

In a shocking move, staff at the Derry station were told on Tuesday morning that seven or eight journalist posts out of 12 working at the station could go.

Staff are said to be devastated by the announcement.

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Further changes will result in news bulletins as well as the breakfast programme being scrapped.

BBC Radio Foyle on Northland Road. (Google Earth)

It is understood that there would be no north west based content daily until 1pm, with the Radio Foyle News at 1 programme expected to remain as normal, along with the afternoon programmes presented by Mark Patterson and Sean Coyle being retained.

Derry’s MP, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood branded the planned job cuts shocking and disgraceful.

BBC Radio Foyle has been broadcasting from the city since 1979.

Overall, 36 posts are expected to go in BBC Northern Ireland as part of a cost-cutting and restructuring project.

The National Union of Journalists has demanded an ‘urgent rethink on jobs cuts’, stating that the BBC Radio Foyle breakfast show is very popular and criticising the discontinuation of daily regional news bulletins.

Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said: “The decision to end the BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast Show and to end regional news bulletins is a betray of the people of Northern Ireland. This is an attack on the very essence of public service broadcasting.

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“Radio Foyle is part of the cultural landscape of the North West with a wide listenership on both sides of the border. The diminution of services in Radio Foyle is of particular concern and will be strongly resisted by the NUJ. We call on political parties, community groups, trade unions and listeners to join us in opposing this move.

“The NUJ is opposed to the redundancy plan. If redundancies are implemented, they should be on a voluntary basis. The BBC should go back to the drawing board and achieve savings in some other fashion. This is a wrong-headed plan at a time when Northern Ireland needs a diversity of news coverage.

"BBC Radio Foyle is vital to the life of Derry, a vibrant city with a tremendous heart and a resilient spirit.

“Today’s news will be met with strong resistance, and we will support our members at BBC Northern Ireland in taking a stand.”

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In a statement the BBC said: “BBC Northern Ireland has set out plans to facilitate the enhancement of its digital video and online services and the savings that it will need to make over the coming period.

“These plans reflect a BBC-wide strategy to prioritise digital content, announced earlier this year, and the need to manage inflationary and other cost pressures.

“Local investment in BBC iPlayer will be increased as a result of these proposals, but there will also be output and staffing reductions in news, audio and related areas.

“BBC Northern Ireland is proposing to close approximately 35-40 posts to contribute to its £2.3 million savings and reinvestment plans.

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“It is hoped the majority of post closures will be achieved through voluntary redundancy, with some opportunities for redeployment within BBC Northern Ireland. The proposals are now subject to consultation with staff and trade unions.

“Some of BBC Northern Ireland’s output will be impacted by these plans, including the breakfast-time news programme on BBC Radio Foyle and Inside Business on BBC Radio Ulster.”

“Efforts have been made to limit the effect of proposed changes on the scope and benefits of BBC services in Northern Ireland and local staff teams.”

Adam Smyth, Interim Director, BBC Northern Ireland, said: “These are challenging times and we face some difficult choices, none of which are easy. We have to find monies to maintain and develop our local presence on BBC iPlayer and to absorb cost pressures across different aspects of our work. Our concern in all of this will be to safeguard audience value and benefit and to remain mindful of the impact that this announcement will have on BBC staff in Northern Ireland.”

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Several UK-wide operational and staffing reviews are also ongoing and these may impact other locally-based teams and roles next year, the BBC said.