2nd Lead (Adds corrections)

BBC South Asia services disrupted

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 24 May 2005, 11:00 GMT]
The BBC’s South Asia services were amongst those hit as staff at the Corporation, protesting job cuts and privatisation plans, went on strike Monday severely disrupting several TV and radio networks. The BBC’s Tamil service provided almost normal service despite employees joining the protest as senior staff crossed the picket lines of what was described as the “most successful strike in BBC history,” sources said.

BBC strike
BBC Sandeshaya and Tamil Ossai staff on the picket in front of the BBC's World Service offices at Bush House
Large numbers of BBC staff, from several professions and departments joined the 24-hour strike Monday. Hardest hit were live shows on BBC Radio 4, the World Service and the TV channels News 24 and BBC World, reports said.

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

Staff taking part in the strike action lose the day’s pay.

Yet Monday's action was "the most successful strike in BBC history", Bectu's BBC official Luke Crawley said.

Staff on the BBC’s Sinhala service, Sandeshaya, joined the strike with only Mr. Priyath Liyanage, Sandeshaya chief, in the studio to broadcast music and notices of service disruption, listeners and staff said. Sandeshaya correspondents in Sri Lanka also joined the strike in sympathy.

The BBC’s Tamil service maintained uninterrupted broadcasting, as senior management, – Mr. Thirumalai Manivannan, Tamil Ossai chief, and Ms. Anandhi Suriyaprakasan, senior producer – crossed the picket line.

A London-based freelance Tamil broadcaster, Mr. Wimal Sokanathan, was also called in to assist Tamil Ossai maintain its output, sources said.

Bectu officials denied an earlier TamilNet report that Tamil Ossai staff had not joined the protests, pointing out that producers Ethirajan Anbarasan and Ramesh Gopalakrishnan had been amongst those on the pickets in front of World Service headquarters at Bush house.

The BBC’s flagship news programmes were among those severely disrupted.

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

The influential BBC Radio 4 cancelled the Today programme, The World at One, PM and The World Tonight but carried short bulletins.

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

The BBC management has offered to "talk" to and "consult" unions about the changes. But unions argue "consultations" give them little say - and are demanding "proper negotiations."
Sandeshaya joins BBC strike


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