Journalists and staff working for a local radio station have gone on strike in a bid to stop cuts to local programming.

Most of BBC Wiltshire's staff who were due to work on Wednesday walked out of the news broadcaster's Victoria Road HQ at 11am to raise awareness of the broadcaster's proposal, which would scrap nearly half of its local weekday shows and all local weekend programmes apart from sport.

Regional broadcasts from Gloucester, Bristol, and Somerset would fill the schedules instead.

Journalist Karen Gardner said: "We are asking senior management to come back to the table and talk to us about how we can better manage the change to digital news - which we support - without decimating the programming our listeners love.

"Most of us live in the county, we continue to support our communities, we are fully committed to Swindon as place to live and work, and focused on delivering the best news and entertainment services we can.

"Think about the stories that have been important to Wiltshire - like Novichok, which we covered directly and helped national journalists cover accurately and effectively because we know the area best.

"Sue Davies presents on weekends. She has been here for 30 years, has a huge amount of knowledge of the county, and is well-loved and respected.

"She and other colleagues are going through the hideous and demeaning process of applying for their own jobs, or - if that's not possible - going into a pool for a job in the new schedule.

"They have been distressed to tears and felt unwell because this is so unpleasant."

Out of the 22 people on shift at the station, only three remained inside. 

Swindon Advertiser: BBC Wiltshire staff on strike in SwindonBBC Wiltshire staff on strike in Swindon (Image: Dave Cox)

The picket line formed just as the reporters would normally be covering the government's Budget, with similar scenes happening at other area-focused BBC radio stations around the country after 83 per cent of balloted National Union of Journalists members voted in favour of strike action.

Supportive Swindonians honked their horns as they passed the radio station, and staff who are not NUJ members refused to break the picket line - some joined it.

Thursday will see the staff striking again between 5am and 11am.

Karen added: "We regret interfering with the programmes today and on Thursday, but this is a last resort, we had no other option."

The NUJ has been engaged in discussions with the BBC, urging a rethink on the damaging impact the proposed cuts - which would limit guaranteed programming to 40 hours a week - could have on local radio. 

Swindon Advertiser:

A BBC spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that audiences will experience some changes to local tv and radio services in England as a result of industrial action by the National Union of Journalists.

"We have tried to minimise disruption as much as possible.

“We are obviously disappointed that the strike has gone ahead. We have a plan to modernise local services across England  - including more news journalists and a stronger local online service – which will see no overall reduction in staffing levels or local funding.

"Our goal is a local service across tv, radio and online that delivers even greater value to communities.

“We will continue to engage with the trade union and do everything possible to minimise the impact on staff.”