Friday, 15 July 2016

My complaint to the BBC about it's industrial coverage

BBC Complaints,                                                                                                      
PO Box 1922, 
DL3 0UR.                                                                           

15th July 2016.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I am writing to raise a formal complaint.

Several years back, the BBC stopped employing industrial correspondents.

This is a crucial role. Without it, workplace trends and developments are absent from our media.

There have been profound developments in our workplaces during the last quarter of a century. Occupational sick pay is becoming rare. Overtime is often unpaid. Bullying is rife. Job security has been greatly, greatly reduced. Workers with less than two years service have virtually no rights at all, and are routinely sacked at will. Hundreds of thousands of Agency workers are in a permanent placement, but never get a permanent job. A seventeen year old owed £15 in unpaid wages is now expected to pay a small fortune to take the matter to a Tribunal.

The vast majority of workers aged under forty face an inadequate pension when they retire. The new “pensions” are not even pensions, they are a risky savings plan. The “pension” may be taken as a lump sum, thus not necessarily providing an income in old age. Even the smartest and most sensible people have no way of planning for the future, as the value of the “pension pot” is impossible to predict.

The impact of technology is blurring the divide between work and leisure, resulting in longer hours and additional pressures upon family life. However in other ways these developments can be positive.

None of these issues are trivial. My complaint is that all of these issues are woefully under-reported, not reported, or misreported, largely due to the absence of industrial correspondents.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Unions do some astonishingly clever work, and in 2015 delivered record amounts of compensation for members. For Unite The Union, the figure was £165m in 2015 alone. Great legal victories have recently been won by Union solicitors, which have resulted in major improvements to the way holiday pay must be calculated. The new laws on holiday pay remain widely flouted by the employers. It’s quite a complex story, and who in the media other than a specialist industrial correspondent could tell it?

Industrial disputes are usually complicated, and as such are very difficult for any well intentioned reporter to cover fairly. The nation is considerably less well informed without the industrial correspondent. Given the well known hostility to workers organisations in other UK media, the withdrawal of the BBC from serious and proper coverage is something that is clearly against the national interest.

The BBC still finds value in employing a team of Royal correspondents. I am unclear as to what particular complexities are required of the role. I am unclear as to why the BBC feel that general reporters cannot cover royal stories about the latest baby, choice of dress, public appearance, health news or other story. I am not saying that there should not be Royal correspondents, rather, I am observing that there appears no justification on grounds of cost that there can be no industrial correspondents.

Democracy is cheapened by the failure of the BBC to bother covering workplace trends. Most people simply don’t know about massive changes such as hefty charges to get your injustice heard in a Tribunal. If that particular change had been properly covered during the days of the industrial correspondent, the controversial policy would likely have resulted in a national outcry.

To resolve my complaint, I am requesting the BBC undertake a high-level review to examine the case for re-establishing this vital public service. If you are prepared to do this, I trust that you can confirm that the conclusion of the review will be made available to the public.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Mr R Coyle.

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