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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 21:37 GMT 22:37 UK
BBC calls for talks amid strike
Striking BBC employees picket outside BBC Television Centre
Striking employees picketed outside BBC Television Centre
The BBC has called on broadcast unions to return to talks after a day of strike action severely disrupted some TV and radio networks.

The BBC said 38% of staff due to work on Monday joined the walkout over plans to cut 3,780 jobs, though unions said they believed up to 55% had taken part.

Hardest hit were live shows on BBC Radio 4, Five Live, the World Service and TV channels News 24 and BBC World.

Unions threaten further strikes unless "meaningful negotiations" are offered.

The strike has scuppered Radio 4's flagship shows including Today and PM and forced changes to BBC One's Breakfast and Chelsea Flower Show coverage.

The main news programmes on BBC One throughout the day were taken from News 24.

BBC SERVICES DISRUPTED
Radio 4's Today, The World at One, PM and The World Tonight cancelled
BBC One main 1300, 1800 and 2200 bulletins taken from News 24
Chelsea Flower Show coverage goes ahead but less done live
BBC News 24, BBC World and Five Live cut down on live programming
BBC News Interactive updated with reduced staffing
The World Service, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland plus local stations also hit

Broadcasting union Bectu said up to 15,000 of the 27,000-strong workforce were taking part.

The job cuts and plans to privatise parts of the BBC were "savage" and would "decimate programmes [and] devalue the BBC", the unions said.

But director general Mark Thompson said they were necessary to prepare the corporation for a hi-tech future and invest more in programmes.

He said the service the corporation had been able to offer on Monday was "rather better than we thought".

"Clearly we're sorry that some services have been affected and licence fee payers have received a less good service from the BBC than they would expect," he said.

"[But] all of our networks are on the air, the disruption has been less than we thought and over 60% of staff have turned up for work as normal."

Mother with baby outside BBC Television Centre
The BBC said 62% of staff due in on Monday reported for work
A BBC statement added: "The BBC believes the best way forward is for unions to return to the table. We apologise to viewers and listeners for any disruption."

The BBC has offered to "talk" to and "consult" unions about the changes. But unions argue "consultations" give them little say - and are demanding to take part in "proper negotiations".

Asked whether the BBC was prepared to negotiate, a corporation spokesperson said: "We would want to say we would want to sit down and talk with them."

Bectu's BBC official Luke Crawley said: "The BBC must recognise that a negotiated outcome is the only sensible way to proceed."

Interrupting the Today programme does not in any way make me want to support their cause
Simon Howard, Rutland, UK

Monday's action was "the most successful strike in BBC history", he said.

If the BBC did not agree to negotiate, there would be "more of the same in eight days time", he added, referring to a planned 48-hour strike to begin on 31 May.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "We've dealt a major blow in the fight to save the BBC from Mark Thompson's savage cuts.

"I hope he will now begin to take notice and begin proper negotiations with the staff unions."

Mr Thompson has said he would be "happy to sit down and listen to the unions and listen to staff and discuss whether there are ways of mitigating that number [of job cuts]".

BBC staff at the Chelsea Flower Show
The BBC's coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show went ahead
"But I would be surprised to be honest if we could significantly shift that number."

The disruptions were a "price worth paying to secure a strong BBC in the long term", he said.

On Monday, BBC One's news bulletin at 1300 was simulcast with News 24 without its usual team of presenters or local news.

The Six O'Clock news bulletin was similarly affected, with the regional news programme that normally follows scrapped. The 2200 BST broadcast managed some regional news.

BBC Radio 4 cancelled Today, The World at One, PM and The World Tonight but is carrying short bulletins.

Big names

Almost all live programmes on news and discussion radio station Five Live have been replaced with repeats.

On the World Service, the English language service has no live programming but there are five-minute news bulletins every 30 minutes.

BBC News Interactive is being updated regularly but with reduced staffing.

Big names who did turn up for work included Radio 1 breakfast show presenter Chris Moyles and Radio 2's Terry Wogan.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See how the strike has affected the BBC's services



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