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BBC local staff to strike over cuts to regional services

The number of BBC Introducing shows — a key platform to showcase rising UK talent — is set to be cut nearly in half

BBC local staff to strike over cuts to regional services

BBC local radio staff will strike this month to protest planned cuts to regional broadcast services.

More than 1,000 BBC Local journalists in the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted "overwhelmingly" (83%) in favour of striking for 24 hours on 15th March, beginning at 11 AM, according to a statement by the NUJ. The timing will affect coverage of the UK government's Spring budget announcement. Additional strikes by BBC Local journalists working in regional radio, TV and online covered are being considered for days coinciding with King Charles III's coronation, Eurovision and local elections. 

The vote was in response to planned changes to BBC Local's schedule, including shared programming after 2 PM among the 39 regional stations, BBC News reports. The 39 BBC Introducing, key platforms for showcasing rising talent from around the UK, will also be cut to 20 shows, although the BBC plans to give the programme "extra" timeslots. News bulletins and sport programmes will remain the same. 

"Local radio is supposed to be local. That is its USP and one of the main reasons why 5.7m people listen to it every week," NUJ's national broadcasting organiser Paul Siegert said. "NUJ members are not opposed to the BBC investing in digital services, but it should not come at the expense of local radio and the communities it serves… No one wants to take strike action but the future of local radio is at stake and so our members are left with no option."

When the changes to BBC Local programming were first announced in October, the BBC said about 48 jobs may be cut, with £19 million in budget "reprioritised from broadcast services towards online and multimedia production". 

In January, 13 UK music industry bodies, including the Music Venue Trust and Association of Independent Music, came together to share an open letter to BBC chairman Richard Sharp about the importance of BBC Introducing. "We want to impress on you very strongly that this would be a fundamental blow to the health of the entire grassroots sector," they wrote. "New and emerging artists already face significant obstacles to breaking into the music industry, challenges that are amplified for those artists and musicians living outside of the major cities.  BBC Introducing has been essential in providing access routes into the industry, with local and regional opportunities available right across the country."

Nia Archives was named the BBC Introducing Artist of the Year for 2022, becoming the first electronic artist to earn the title. Previous winners include Self Esteem, Arlo Parks and Celeste. BBC Introducing is credited with launching the careers of now-international stars like Little Simz, JME, Skepta, Ed Sheeran, Florence + the Machine, Låpsley and Ellie Goulding.