updated 5/23/2005 7:57:57 AM ET 2005-05-23T11:57:57

Thousands of British Broadcasting Corp. journalists and technicians began a 24-hour strike over proposed job cuts Monday, severely disrupting radio and TV programs.

The work stoppage, one of the biggest in the BBC’s recent history, prevented flagship morning news program “Today” from broadcasting on Radio 4. The show was replaced by prerecorded programs with only brief news bulletins.

National and regional TV channels also showed many recorded items as a result of the industrial action, which began at midnight.

Unions said they expected about 11,000 workers to strike over plans to ax about 4,000 jobs. The corporation, which has a work force of around 28,000, is hoping the cuts will help it save some 355 million pounds ($640 million).

Three unions organizing the strike have said they will also stage walkouts on May 31 and June 1, with a fourth to be announced later.

“The savage cuts proposed will damage programming as well as the organization and will unravel British broadcasting traditions,” said Mike Smallwood, national officer of the Amicus union.

“The BBC is a unifying British institution which acts as the nation’s conscience but these redundancies will damage the U.K. at its core.”

Managers defended the planned cutbacks.

“Industrial action will not remove the need for further consultation or the need for the BBC to implement changes which will enable us to put more money into improved programs and services,” the BBC said.

Striking workers formed picket lines outside BBC TV and radio studios throughout London. The National Union of Journalists said the strike had been an “astonishing success.”

“We are absolutely delighted with the level of support we have received for the strike,” said general secretary Jeremy Dear.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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