Union bosses have called for reassurance that journalists currently employed as local democracy reporters will be retained following the scheme’s expansion.
The National Union of Journalists has given a “cautious welcome” to the announcement that 15 new jobs will be created by the BBC to cover more councils, bringing the total number of journalists employed by the project to 165.
But the union says it is seeking further clarity on various aspects of the expansion including the terms of any new contracts and the potential impact on journalists already working in regional newsrooms under the BBC-funded scheme, saying the move has “created a degree of uncertainty for those already employed as LDRs”.
The number of contracts to be tendered as a result of the expansion is set to be increased from 68 to 118 in a move designed to encourage more smaller publishers to bid, but the NUJ has urged the BBC to state its intention that the winners of the new contracts should retain those already employed as LDRs.
The union says it is discussing the matter with the BBC and partner publishes involved in the scheme, as well as seeking independent legal advice “in an attempt to secure fairness and certainty for all NUJ members affected”.
Seamus Dooley, pictured, the union’s assistant general secretary, said: “The local democracy reporters scheme has helped fill gaps in the media’s coverage of local democracy so the extension of the scheme is to be welcomed but we will be seeking clarification on a number of issues regarding the position of those already engaged in the scheme.”
Chris Morley, NUJ Northern and Midlands senior organiser, added: “We are hoping the BBC will offer clarity to all of the current local democracy reporters, stating clearly that its intention is that they should be retained on the scheme and this expectation will be clearly communicated to contract winners.”
A BBC spokesman told HTFP: “Creating 15 extra positions means more opportunities for journalists.
“We will do all we can to make the transition period as smooth as possible when it begins next spring.”