BBC Staff Threaten to Blackout Coverage of Pope's UK Visit

Dennis May

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Monday, August 02 2010

Staff at Britain's public broadcasting network BBC have threatened to blackout coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to the country in a row over cuts in their pensions.

The move would be a huge disappointment to the country's 7.5 million Catholics, who are anticipating Benedict's September visit – the first by a pontiff since 1982.

Tensions between BBC workers and management staff have heightened since the Sunday Express revealed last week that director general Mark Thompson and other senior executives hold a secret pension listed in accounts under "other remuneration."

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the union Bectu, told the Daily Express: "Following the revelations in the Sunday Express about the hypocrisy of the board of governors, feeling among staff has become more entrenched."

"If the vote is for a strike then we will focus action on key broadcasts," Morrissey said, noting the Last Night of the Proms alongside the pope's visit as potential targets.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said that the visit is "very significant" and that "it is very important that the Pope is seen and heard by the people."

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Benedict's visit to the UK has drawn much controversy since plans were announced earlier this year.

Rows over the costs of the visit and the pope's handling of the Catholic Church's sex abuse crisis have drawn protests in the country, and celebrity atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have even made plans to have Benedict arrested.

Recently, advocates of ordaining women priests in the church have secured bus advertising to be run during Benedict's visit.

Catholic Women's Ordination claims the ads are not meant to be disruptive, although other Catholics have expressed outrage over a recent Vatican document that seemingly equated ordaining women priests with a crimes as grave as heresy or pedophilia.

The Vatican has denied that the crimes are of equal seriousness and that the document didn't intend to put "everything into one basket."

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