AddThis SmartLayers

Union condemns impact of low pay as nearly a third of LDRs leave roles

nujlogoAlmost a third of local democracy reporters have left their roles since April 2023 according to freedom of information findings from the BBC.

The National Union of Journalists says low pay is fuelling the high turnover rate among LDRs and is calling for “radical changes” to the funding mechanism for the scheme.

It claims some of the funding from the BBC for the scheme is being retained by publishers rather than being passed on to the reporters themselves.

The union’s findings follow a series of FoI requests to the BBC submitted by the union.

According to the NUJ, they showed that while the publishers are receiving funding from the BBC of £37,733 per filled LDR role (£39,953 in London), senior reporters employed under the scheme are receiving a BBC-set minimum of £24,055 or £26,242 in London.

The FoI requests also revealed that 28pc of LDRs left their roles in 2022-23 while 31pc have left since April 2023.

The NUJ is calling for stipulated minimum pay rates and for all participating publishers to ensure public money is not used to boost their financial bottom line.

It says that currently, the contract terms mean publishers are required only to pay the appropriate minimum salary and pass on the 1.5pc annual increase in funding they receive to their LDRs – irrespective of how high inflation is.

The NUJ has repeated it claims originally made last summer that regional publisher Newsquest is retaining surplus funding of up to £10,000 per LDR.

Newsquest has previously said that it “entirely rejects” the accusation which it said was based on a “flawed assessment” by the union.

Chris Morley, NUJ Northern & Midlands senior organiser, said: “The LDR reporting service is now anchored in the journalism ecosystem of the UK and has been a force for good for quality journalism.

“It has allowed publishers to continue to provide quality original content to the communities they serve where they might have been tempted to exit that form of reporting.

“However, the service is under pressure from a funding mechanism that has proved too inflexible in the recent years of high inflation. It has left publishers to ‘do the right thing’ to go above and beyond what is contractually required of them with their LDRs’ pay – and some have not done so.

“The BBC needs to review this flaw in the system and publishers certainly need to step in to make sure they are not extracting an undeserved profit from the arrangement by failing to properly reward LDRs with the valuable work they do.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We are really proud of the thousands of stories the Local Democracy Reporting Service has delivered over the last six years and the opportunity it has given hundreds of journalists to tell stories that really matter.

“The existing funding and salary model expires on June 30, 2025. We will work with partners to ensure the scheme continues to meet all of its core requirements.

“We have clear processes in place to make sure all local democracy reporters are paid within the same pay range. The BBC treats all suppliers equally no matter the size of the publishing company when it comes to what funding is available for the reporters.”

Newsquest has not so far responded to requests for a comment on the union’s latest claims.