BBC staff fear losing redundancy pay if they speak out about radio cuts, says MP


BBC staff have been subject to “gagging clauses” and fear losing their redundancy pay if they speak out about local radio cuts, MPs have heard.

Labour former minister Dame Diana Johnson made the remark as she warned local radio content was being “trashed” by moves to require the 39 stations to share more content and broadcast less programming unique to their areas.

Culture minister Julia Lopez said she would do her best to “get some heads wobbling” at the BBC as she noted the House of Commons considered the cuts “regretful”.

Dame Diana, MP for Kingston upon Hull North, told the House of Commons: “I am absolutely furious that BBC Radio Humberside is essentially being trashed.

“Local radio content will end at 2pm each day, there is no coverage at weekends, local presenters including ones like Burnsy (David Burns) have had to reapply for their jobs, and only one was successful.

“The rest now are facing gagging clauses and fear of losing their redundancy pay if they speak out.”

“It is easier to get a meeting with the Prime Minister than it is with the director-general. Can I ask the ministers to do what Burnsy would suggest and get BBC managers to give their heads a wobble and sort this out?”

Ms Lopez replied: “I shall do my best to get some heads wobbling.

“I know that she is a very big supporter of Radio Humberside and also her local BBC television in Look North. I know it is also very difficult for those journalists affected.

Conservative MP Damian Green, the acting chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, asked if ministers planned new protections for local radio in a forthcoming Media Bill.

He said: “Can she let us know whether that Media Bill will do anything to protect the essential BBC local radio services that many people beyond this House, not just in this House, find a very important part of the broadcasting landscape?”

Ms Lopez said: “We are not, via primary legislation, going to protect specific parts of the BBC, but we have a number of very important measures on radio services that we feel very strongly about including in that legislation.

“That includes on smart speakers, we also want to reduce regulatory burdens and costs on radio stations, but we also want to strengthen the protections for local news and content and hopefully that will help with some of these issues.”

“But their plans to redirect this resource into online local news may place the BBC in direct competition with existing local news sites.

“Can I press the minister again on what she is doing to discuss the impact of these cuts with the BBC and what steps they are taking to support local journalism outlets and their employees?”

Ms Lopez replied: “We don’t want the support the BBC gets, effectively from the licence fee, to be seen as something that crowds out market competition. That is something we are going to be considering in the midterm review.”

Labour MP Rachael Maskell (York Central) said: “BBC Radio York keeps North Yorkshire connected to their local community, however the reforms are going to remove that vital link.”

Responding to claims that staff have been subject to gagging clauses, a BBC spokesperson said: “This is simply not true. We are supporting staff and working closely with them through this process.”

Speaking during business questions, Conservative MP Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) said staff at BBC Radio Cumbria are concerned about proposals to “slash services” and said “morale in the team is at rock bottom”.

He added: “This is the BBC turning its back on local communities like those in Barrow and Furness.”

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt encouraged Mr Fell to seek a parliamentary debate on the topic, noting: “Local broadcasting is not just vital to a community in terms of getting messages and news out, and strengthening that community, it’s also a vital tool to protect democracy as well.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here