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British Broadcasting Corp. Workers Strike Over Pay

April 24, 1989

LONDON (AP) _ The ″Flintstones″ cartoon characters filled in for one morning television program today and silence greeted many radio listeners as thousands of British Broadcasting Corp. workers went on strike for higher pay.

The 24-hour walkout by 18,000 of the BBC’s 25,000 employees forced nearly all live programs on the corporation’s four national radio networks and two television channels to be canceled or shortened. This affected half the nation’s non-cable television and all national radio stations.

The BBC radio canceled its World Service, which broadcasts all over the globe, with morning news commentary programs, financial reports and the daily review of the British press.

Morning television viewers were met with the ″Flintstones,″ a food program and a film about stunt rider Evel Knievel instead of the usual two- hour ″Breakfast Time″ news and current affairs show.

Journalists joined technicians on picket lines in West London and demonstrations were planned for Glasgow, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham and other major cities.

The strike began at midnight to demand a 16 percent pay rise that would bring salaries in line with those in commercial broadcasting. The BBC has offered an average 7 percent increase.

″At the lowest levels, BBC pay is, quite simply, abysmal,″ wrote Simon Gallimore, a BBC union representative in a letter to the daily Independent. He said the publicly funded service was suffering a ″hemorrhage of experienced and skilled staff,″ to commercial networks, because of the low wages.

The national average for a BBC journalist is the equivalent of $29,000 a year, compared with $41,000 in commercial radio or television network, Gallimore’s union said.

At the BBC, a radio engineer earns up to $18,210 a year while a cameraman earns up to $20,280.

The strike silenced many hourly radio newscasts. There were none between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on the light entertainment Radio 2, and an announcer explained that the network was unable to provide live programs ″at this time.″

″We are attempting to maintain as good a service as possible,″ said a BBC spokesman on condition of anonymity.

Radio 2 music programs were disrupted from 5:30 a.m. onward as disc jockeys stayed away.

The ″Today″ current affairs program on Radio 4, the main news channel, was also canceled, and replaced with previously-recorded items, while announcers read shortened newscasts.

The BBC subsists on compulsory public subscription. A year’s license fee for a black-and-white TV set is the equivalent of $36, and $107 for a color set. The BBC management says the fee has not risen in line with inflation, and has left the corporation short of funds.

24-89 1027EDT

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