BBC journalists strike for 2nd day over pensions

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LONDON (AP) — BBC reporters are planning further strikes after a two-day walkout over pension changes successfully disrupted the broadcaster’s TV and radio programs, a labor union said Saturday.

Jeremy Dear, chief of the National Union of Journalists, said a 48-hour strike that began Friday had forced some news programs off the air and prompted radio stations to air repeats instead of some live broadcasts.

The union said it plans another two-day strike beginning Nov. 15 and threatened further labor action over the Christmas holidays.

The BBC’s flagship “Today” radio program was canceled Friday but broadcast as normal on Saturday.

Services are “not totally back to normal, but not far off,” the BBC said. “It may not be quite as polished as it usually is, but for most viewers it will be the same service they are used to.”

BBC employees were protesting planned pension changes that have been rejected by the union, which has about 4,100 members at the BBC.

“News programs have virtually been written off in Scotland and we expect huge disruption across the BBC again today,” Dear said Saturday, speaking at a protest in Glasgow, Scotland.

He claimed many staff had lost faith in senior management.

“They have got so many things wrong, from executive pay to the freezing of the license fee as well as the cuts to journalists’ pensions,” he said.

BBC director-general Mark Thompson insists the new pension plans are fair and have already been modified after talks with staff. He said only one in six employees had joined the strike.

As a public broadcaster that does not carry advertising, the BBC is funded mainly by a mandatory 142.50 pounds ($230) yearly fee paid by every household with a color TV — a levy set by Britain’s government.

The BBC has already announced plans to ax radio stations, cut its Web pages by half and sell off magazines under cuts to its 3.5 billion pound ($5.6 billion) annual budget.

Under sweeping spending cuts announced last month, Treasury chief George Osborne said the license fee would be frozen for six years, effectively a 16 percent budget cut for the BBC.