BBC North is one of the most ambitious projects in our history and will create a new centre of excellence outside London for production, technology development, training and digital media. The move starts in May 2011 and the project is on time and on budget.
The BBC is paid for by the whole of the UK and needs to better reflect the breadth and depth of our culture and be representative of all those who fund it. BBC North will help meet the commitment to our audiences to get as close to them as possible.
Twenty-five per cent of licence fee payers live in the North - from Liverpool to Newcastle – yet currently only 8% of network programmes are made in the region. Our audiences in the North have told us that they feel less well served and represented and a new creative hub in the North will help redress this balance.
From our base at MediaCityUK and our regional offices in Leeds, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle, BBC North will support locally produced, high quality content for every platform using the latest innovations in technology. We will also create new content that will be enjoyed by audiences across the UK in the same way that BBC Wales makes great drama like Doctor Who or BBC Bristol produces landmark natural history series from the South West.
The move facilitates the creation of new partnerships with organisations including independent producers, cutting edge digital companies and universities across the North of England.
There will be up to 2,300 BBC jobs in MediaCityUK including hundreds of new vacancies. BBC North will lead the way in training and developing talent, building on the rich mix of skills and experience already available in the North of England.
BBC North will provide four key benefits:
Since 2009, BBC North has invested in a series of initiatives including:
And already the local community is beginning to see some tangible results of our presence in the area. The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra continues its work with the Salford Family Orchestra, Doctor Who and BBC News School Report have worked with over 3,000 local school children.
|Building||Design & Fit-Out||40.8|
|People||Relocation, recruitment, training & redundancy||86.5|
|Technology/facilities||Presentation areas, radio studios, editing facilities, central infrastructure||74.8|
|Migration||Move to MediaCityUK & Dual Running||19.9|
|Project North||Central Project Management Team||11.3|
|Off-set by projected capital spend in pre-migration location (See note)||(44)|
The cost of the move to MediaCityUK is under £200m which includes the recent additions such as BBC Breakfast. This figure represents the cost of the transition project, relocation and redundancy packages for staff, and the installation of new technology.
We have committed to recouping the cost over twenty years and if possible will reduce the payback period significantly by fully occupying our more cost-effective buildings and introducing more efficient ways of working.
The National Audit Office report on BBC Estates quoted a figure of £877m. However, this covers the 20-year running costs of the five departments moving to Salford Quays and includes lease costs and ongoing operational and technology costs. If these departments remain in London their running costs will be higher. The costs of running Salford Quays are lower because there are significant savings in sharing studios, phasing out London Weighting, occupying energy-efficient buildings and selling existing properties. These savings will be invested in programme making.
BBC North is at MediaCityUK, the UK’s first purpose built Media City situated in Salford Quays around two miles from Manchester City Centre, on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal. The BBC leases three buildings from the owners, Peel Media, which will be home to a diverse mix of talented people making BBC favourites, including Match of the Day, Blue Peter, Dragons’ Den, 5 live Drive and three hours a day of BBC One output by BBC Breakfast.
MediaCityUK is being developed and managed by Peel Media, a division of the Peel Group, one of the leading property and transport companies in the UK, with an asset value in excess of £6 billion. Peel Media’s investment in Phase 1 of MediaCityUK is in the region of £650million.
Roughly twice the size of Trafalgar Square, the MediaCityUK Stage is an outdoor arena with enough room for around 5,000 people to attend events and enjoy content on a huge screen infront of the Studio Block. BBC North will use this space to showcase what we do in new and exciting ways.
The MediaCityUK Park will provide a green oasis away from the hustle and bustle – a relaxing waterside retreat to watch the world go by. The front of the Park is where the Metrolink will pull up to its brand new tram stop.
The BBC's home in the North of England is one of the most ambitious projects in the BBC's history. We're throwing open our doors, so you can take a peek behind the scenes. We are now home to a whole host of BBC channels and programmes including favourites such as Match Of The Day, Blue Peter, Dragons' Den, BBC Breakfast, Radio 5 Live and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, to name just a few.
There are two interactive tours on offer at MediaCityUK: the BBC Tour and the CBBC Children's tour. Click here to book.
Earlier this month, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) reported that the BBC's move north was delivered on time, under budget and with no disruption to services.
The BBC welcomes this outcome based on a National Audit Office investigation. At the same time as publishing the report, the PAC also asked questions about relocation allowances and our relationship with Media City landlords Peel Holdings among others.
With those questions in mind, we have collated a list of FAQs to help explain the issues raised.
There is quite a lot of detail but the FAQs do contain facts and figures that can help anyone interested who has questions about our move.
We are really pleased with what is being achieved from Media City already, but we also know this is just the beginning of a stronger relationship with licence fee payers in the region and better programmes and services for the whole UK.
Director BBC North
When will BBC North be in a position to justify the move in terms of measurable benefits to the audience?
The National Audit Office Report says that there are already some positive early indications - over the past two years there has been an increase in both BBC network programme spend (7% to 9%) and North GVA – that’s Gross Value added – the value generated for the UK economy as a result of the BBC’s expenditure here on a range of activities including third party suppliers across content, technology, publishing, marketing, and other areas: a 19% increase year on year – to £391m.
How could the move remain justifiable even at an increased cost?
The move was delivered on time and under the final agreed budget. The move North was part of the BBC’s overall strategy to focus less of its spend and resources in the South of England/London and drive up audience approval outside London. There is early evidence that the North-South approval scores and share and reach gaps are beginning to close alongside the increase in network production spend in the North of England.
Why did the BBC accept a lower than expected – almost half – offer forOxford Road – its former premises in Manchester?
The original forecast for Oxford Road was made before the downturn in the property market and the economic crash of 2008. Oxford Road was subsequently revalued in line with the new forecast.
At what point will the BBC be able to demonstrate Value for Money for the move to Salford?
The NAO report makes it clear that there are already demonstrable early indications and BBC North will continue to work to deliver both benefits and efficiencies.
The move has enabled us to deliver savings through technology and working practices. We were able to reshape our workforce before we moved and by producing content in new ways we are able to be more efficient. A good example is the bringing together of BBC Sports and BBC News staff in Quay House and the co-siting and working of BBC Breakfast and Regional News operations. Since moving to Salford we have also re-procured many services from local suppliers and wherever possible at a more affordable rate.
How can the BBC justify the use of public money on relocation packages – benchmarked – familiarisation visits etc? Is it justifiable to offer staff ‘incentives’?
Packages for staff to move North were not ‘incentivised’. They were based on best industry practice and in the vast majority of cases paid out against actual costs.
The familiarisation visits – recommended by external agency Governetz – were a major factor in the higher than expected percentage of staff who moved North which reducedthe overall redundancy bill for the project.
Initial feedback from staff projected BBC relocation rates to the north of 15 – 20%. The BBC set itself a target of 30% but finally delivered 57% of London staff in scope. This significantly reduced the overall redundancy bill for the project – the familiarisation visits played a role in this.
Did senior staff get a better deal than other staff?
All staff moving North were offered the same relocation allowances and same level of flexibility regardless of their seniority or grade.
Exceptions were made to reimburse full costs of staff with skills and experience whose circumstances changed during the move – house purchases that fell through; bereavements; school moves etc. We considered this vital to ensure that the base was operational from the outset and the NAO has recognised that BBC North was established without any break in business continuity.
Why was the decision made to offer Remote Relocation Allowances (RLA) that the NAO refers to as ‘unusual’?
For a move of this scale and ambition the need for flexibility in terms of the options for relocation was critical. It is also important to note that staff choosing RLA forfeited their redundancy at the point of decision which again reduces the overall redundancy bill - on average almost twice the cost of relocation.
The RLA option secured over 150 fully experienced staff whose knowledge, skills and experience would have potentially been lost to the BBC and adding to the redundancy bill. It preserved core skills and experience during the crucial set-up phase and ensured that the base was fully operational immediately and business continuity was not affected.
The additional investment in relocation packages was more than offset by the reduction in our redundancy costs.
Why did the BBC use public money to offer incentives such as the 10 per cent of salary/£5,000 one-off taxable payment?
The relocation packages offered reduced the project’s redundancy costs. As the Report states, the average BBC redundancy payment was £48k – almost double the average cost of relocation allowances.
£5,000 taxable payment is a net payment of £3,000, and was available to all relocating staff who were homeowners, towards the additional costs which they inevitably incur when selling and buying properties. This is normal custom and practice on large relocation projects.
In addition, 10% of salary was payable to staff who chose to sell their own properties, rather than opting for the Guaranteed Support Scheme, under which the risk of capital loss on the property would fall on the BBC. The 10% payment reflected the financial risk being accepted by the individual – which substantially reduced the financial obligations of the BBC towards the Salford relocation project.
Why didn’t BBC North make more rigorous checks in terms of relocation claims by staff?
Under the relocation scheme staff self-certified that they were property owners and therefore had access to those options within the relocation policy. Following advice from the auditors, retrospective checks were carried out on all of these cases and all were proven to be valid, with no irregularities found.
The Trust say that it is ‘unacceptable’ that the BBC did not adequately document the reasons for all exceptions to the standard policy. Do you agree?
We accept that more rigorous procedures should have been followed in a few areas - one percent of all moves - but our retrospective checks have proved that the system was robust overall. The recommendations of the auditors have been incorporated into our updated procedures and have been applied in subsequent relocation cases.
If the checks have been made retrospectively have any staff been required to pay back any money they should not have received? Have there been any disciplinary procedures as a result?
We checked every single case and there were no irregularities or errors found in the payment of allowances. Therefore there have been no disciplinary procedures.
Why were 91 people given more than even the generous relocation packages allocated to the rest of the staff that moved? Will they be required to pay this back?
Exceptions to the relocation policy were agreed for 91 out of 854 staff who moved – around 1 in 10 of the migrating population.
Exceptions were only made to reimburse staff who incurred additional costs as a consequence of relocation.
Given the complexity and scale of the move and the many different individual circumstances this is a reasonable proportion and accounted for only 2.9% of the overall relocation spend.
Each was considered on a case-by-case basis and had to fulfil three additional criteria:
- was the additional cost to do with the move?
- was the cost reasonable?
- was the cost affordable?
Exceptions were properly authorised by at least two members of the relocation management team and payment was made by claim against receipted expenses and not paid in advance.
Isn’t the reduction in the packages for future people moving to Salford a clear admission that the original relocation packages were over generous?
External conditions have changed since the first phase of migration. With those who moved up to April 2012 part of the investment was aimed at securing the skills and experience necessary to establish the new base and the early relocation packages reflect that.
Those who move in the future are moving to an established base. The external environment and the BBC’s funding position have also changed since the original proposal was put together.
Is it fair that some people – and clearly senior executives – were given more generous relocation allowances than normal staff?
Every member of staff who moved to the North of England had the same relocation options regardless of grade or seniority.
Why aren’t people on Remote Location Allowance required to pay the BBC back if they leave the business?
RLA is designed to reimburse expenses in a similar manner to other travel expenses, where the BBC has agreed to allow staff to retain their base in the South East. Staff choosing RLA have forfeited their right to redundancy so there is no additional cost to the BBC if they leave the organisation.
Is there a risk that the BBC is becoming overly dependent on the Peel Group for long-term success at Salford?
Is there a risk that the fast pace of change in the broadcasting industry means that the BBC’s decision to enter a long-term contractual commitment for studio services is risky?
We have a commercial agreement with the Peel Group which has all the flexibility we need to safeguard against both issues raised by the PAC.
Do you have any concerns about the Peel Group’s tax affairs?
The BBC, like any public service organisation, adheres to all UK and European legislation governing the procurement of large contracts. These spell out the criteria for companies we can do business with and are made public.
Peter is Director, BBC North. He is leading the development of the world's most advanced broadcasting centre and the largest move of staff and departments out of London in the BBC's history. On completion the centre at Salford Quays will house over 2,000 staff and a number of BBC departments - including BBC Sport, BBC Children's and Radio 5 Live for which Peter has responsibility.
Where do you work?
I work in BBC Learning, where I am a project manager responsible for working with partners and councils across the North West region on educational events like Springwatch Festivals, Live 'n' Deadly roadshow, Remembrance and First Click.
What does the move to Salford mean to you?
This is a really exciting time to be in the BBC. As a Mancunian who initially made the move to London to work in media, it's really important that more job opportunities are coming north. Not only will the BBC move and new buildings create jobs for Northerners but they'll help shape the BBC into a more representative broadcaster.
What's your favourite aspect of the North?
I love the huge range of great places to go and things to do in the North West - the Peaks, the Lakes, North Wales, Cheshire, Lancashire - and I can still come back to Manchester in give or take an hour.
Are you interested in becoming a BBC supplier? Have a look at our procurement website for more information on the process.
For everything you need to know about the BBC commissioning and delivery process across TV & Multiplatform, Radio and Technology & Online.
*these teams have moved from BBC Manchester Oxford Road
In October 2011, the University of Salford opened a unique digital learning, teaching and research space. Over 1,500 students now study on 39 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes using the very latest industry specified equipment, studio and labs.
ITV is set to build a stand alone production centre and studio for Coronation Street on a 7.7 acre site at Trafford Wharf. ITV’s offices will be spread across several floors within MediaCityUK’s Orange tower, providing the latest technology for ITV Studios’ production and management teams, ITV regional news, and support staff.
BBC North is located at:
MediaCityUK, Salford Quays, M50 2EQ
MediaCityUK has its own Metrolink stop with connections to Piccadilly, Victoria, Bury, Altrincham and Eccles. For more information on the Metrolink, click here.
Many bus routes operate in the Salford Quays area from Manchester City Centre and the surrounding areas - click here for a map of bus routes in Salford.
MediaCityUK has its own Multi-storey Car Park that is for visitors as well as staff. Click here for how to get here by car.
MediaCityUK has 300 external cycle racks for you to park your bicycle – for a good route to Salford Quays, click here.
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