In the last few days rumours had been flying around that a strike by the unions Amicus, the National Union of Journalists and Bectu would affect the BBC's coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest. Although the unions voted in favour of strike action in a ballot, in a row over job cuts, the dates chosen for strike action are 23rd May, 31st May and 1st June, a further fourth stoppage will also be announced to create “the greatest amount of disruption”.
Journalists and technicians are protesting at plans to cut 3,780 jobs and privatise parts of the corporation. The unions described the cuts as the most damaging in the corporation's history.
The BBC said it had no comment to make at the moment about the strike dates, as the unions want to disrupt as many programmes as possible. The BBC has said previously that the proposed staff changes will provide millions of pounds for reinvestment.
The corporation has yet to finalise TV and radio schedules for the strike-affected days, but live programmes and news programmes are expected to be disrupted. Radio and online output may be similarly affected.
The BBC is expected to try to minimise disruption but Bectu previously said it would seek “black screens and dead air”. Bectu voted about 80% in favour of strike action, on a turnout of about 50%. The National Union of Journalists voted 84% in favour, with a 64% turnout.
It was feared that had May 21st been the date of the strike action this would have affected coverage of The FA Cup Final and The Eurovision Song Contest. It would have raised some interesting issues had one of the Big Four countries been unable to transmit the contest!
The BBC will therefore be screening The Eurovision Song Contest 2005 on BBC1 at 20.00 BST with commentary by Terry Wogan on May 21st.