Business News Media

BBC unveils latest plan to ensure more programme-making outside of London

By | Published on Friday 19 March 2021


The BBC wouldn’t be the BBC if there wasn’t at least one major overhaul and restructuring plan being implemented at any one time, and yesterday the latest such plan was unveiled. The Corporation is having another go at becoming less London-centric. Last time it did that we ended up with loads of on-air talent commuting from the South of England to Manchester. Because imagine if on-air talent had to actually live in Manchester!

That said, this plan is arguably a more significant attempt at spreading the BBC’s operations out across the UK. And while the broadcaster’s Manchester – or technically Salford – base gets another boost from this particular restructure, other regional BBC centres will become more active too. Who knows, they may even allow local BBC journalists to appear on national news programmes, rather than having two teams reporting on the same events. Now that would be radical!

Says BBC boss man Tim Davie of his grand new plan: “Our mission must be to deliver for the whole of the UK and ensure every household gets value from the BBC. These plans will get us closer to audiences, create jobs and investment, and develop and nurture new talent”.

“Over the last year, the BBC – which has been an essential part of the UK’s culture, democracy and creativity for almost a century – has helped inform, educate and entertain all four nations, as we have collectively faced some of our toughest moments in recent history. Now, as we look to the future, we must play our part in supporting social and economic recovery; rebuilding the creative sector and telling the stories that need to be heard from all corners of the UK”.

Of course, now is a perfect time for having another go at pushing more of the BBC’s journalism and programme making out of London, given that most office workers have been remote-working for a year now anyway; many of those who traditionally commuted into London every day have quite enjoyed not commuting into London every day during lockdown; and – on the news side – guests are now much better equipped to contribute over the net, and listeners and viewers are used to that being the norm.

That said, with many London-based companies anticipating a permanent change to their corporate culture post-COVID, with at least some remote working becoming the norm, allowing for a not insignificant downsizing of any real estate they occupy in the capital, maybe in a few years the BBC will be under pressure to support the flagging London economy by basing more of its output there. So that’s something to look forward to.

But first, let’s get more stuff happening in the regions. Under Davie’s grand plan, at least 60% of the money spent on original TV commissions will go to productions made outside London, while 50% of the budget spent on radio and music will also be used outside the capital by 2027/28.

In fact, Radio 1’s Newsbeat set-up and the whole Asian Network will be primarily based in Birmingham, while Radio 3 and 6Music will be “rooted in Salford”. And there’ll be daytime shows on Radio 1, 1Xtra and Radio 2 hosted from studios outside of London.

The BBC News operation will boost its presence in the regions; the main base of the Corporation’s digital and technology teams will also become Salford; BBC studios in Bristol, Cardiff and Glasgow will be expanded, while its Belfast HQ will be upgraded; and there’ll be more journalists and programmes focused on local and regional news, available via TV, local radio stations and the BBC Sounds app.

So, plenty of changes incoming. The BBC concludes its outline of the grand plan by stating: “We will assess, where appropriate, our proposed changes to local plans for materiality in line with our requirements under the [BBC] Charter and Agreement, engaging with interested stakeholders and [media regulator] OfCom”.