THE Bristol branch of the National Union of Journalists has condemned as “outrageous” a reader poll by the Bristol Evening Post which asks readers to vote on which of two TV weather presenters should lose their job in BBC cutbacks.
The Evening Post published the poll in its edition of Wednesday October 12th, asking readers: “Which BBC weather presenter should stay? Cast your vote at www.facebook.com/postpoll“.
The poll does not appear on the online version of the story, but was still active on Facebook 24 hours later, by which time it had attracted 109 votes. The story minus the poll also appeared in the Western Daily Press, which like the Post is owned by publisher Northcliffe.
The BBC’s two TV weather presenters in Bristol are Ian Fergusson and Jemma Cooper. The BBC has proposed that one of their jobs should go as part of a proposed 20 per cent cut in the national BBC budget.
This is expected to mean 20 journalists’ jobs being axed in Bristol with cuts to BBC Bristol and TV news programmes, the worst affected being Inside Out West. You can read more about the Bristol cuts here and the NUJ’s national response here.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, said: “In a week when figures show 2.57 million people are unemployed in the UK, it is particularly disgraceful and insulting for a newspaper to respond to the threat of redundancies by launching a poll to determine which presenter should keep their job. These are people’s livelihoods at stake here, it’s not some sordid reality tv show. Journalists are losing their jobs at an alarming rate across the industry and we are asking for solidarity not humiliation and contempt.”
A meeting of the Bristol branch of the NUJ on October 12 condemned the Post’s reader poll. Members were unanimous in criticising the move, with many asking how senior staff at the Evening Post would like it if their future employment was discussed in such an insensitive manner.
Paul Breeden, chair of Bristol NUJ, said:
“The senior management of the Evening Post should remove this offensive poll immediately. It’s not the role of local media to invite the public to vote for who should or should not lose their job.
“The very idea of this poll is outrageous and smacks of the morality of the lynch mob.
“If this principle was applied to senior figures at Northcliffe, I doubt that they would enjoy the experience.
“The Post should focus on what journalists do best – explaining the impact of the BBC cutbacks and what it will mean to viewers, listeners and staff.
“The best way the Post could serve the West’s viewers and listeners is to back the NUJ’s campaign against these unjust and unnecessary cuts.”
The union made an immediate protest to the Post’s editor, Mike Norton, as soon as officials learned of the poll, but has received no response.