Date: 01.10.2008 Last updated: 18.08.2014 at 15.36
A series of essays on the BBC's plans to grow television production from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and English Regions
Growing television production in the UK
In October 2008, Jana Bennett, Director of BBC Vision, declared the BBC's intention of changing the very DNA of the BBC - to bring the production of television programmes closer to the audiences it serves. This means increasing the production and commissioning of television programmes from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the English Regions, re-balancing the so-called London-centric bias that sometimes seems to dominate media thinking.
The extensive programme that the BBC is embarking on will mean a BBC for all of the UK, boosting jobs and the creative industries around the UK. It aims to ensure that people in every part of the country should have a sense of themselves on screen and to spread the licence fee more equitably.
The BBC's strategy aims to achieve creative quality and sustainability by developing strategic centres of excellence. Strong partnerships with independent companies, local creative industries, screen and development agencies are also key to the plan. These 'centres of excellence' – in Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Salford, Bristol, and Birmingham as well as London, will be reinforced by moving a number of programmes and series from their current locations to the nations and regions by 2012. This is a key way to provide a good foundation for delivering year on year and retaining talent.
Made in the UK is a collection of essays by key media commentators including on screen and creative talent, independent producers and BBC executives, all of whom have an abiding interest and commitment to the UK's broadcast and creative industries. Their stories bring alive the wealth of creativity and content from the UK's different nations and English regions.
Made in the UK - Jana Bennett
Jana Bennett introduces a collection of essays explaining the BBC's mission to increase television production from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions.
Anne Morrison explains how new commitments and initiatives By the BBC will ensure that shifting production to the nations and regions will genuinely succeed across the board and build creativity throughout the UK.
Andrew Curry looks at why some regions and cities prosper while others decline and thinks it seems to be an unpredictable mixture of economics, social network and place, with cultural institutions such as the BBC playing a major part in seeding regional success.
David Bunker addresses some of the diverse reasons for differences in consumption and perception of the BBC across the nations and regions of the UK. While it would be a mistake to assume they are driven solely by content (technical issues, social demographics, ethnicity and age are all factors) ultimately it is necessary to get down to the level of the programmes themselves to understand why the BBC is underperforming in particular nations and regions. However, the BBC must still concentrate on supplying high-quality, engaging television that appeals across the national and regional boundaries.
Where the Wild Things Are - Sir David Attenborough
Sir David Attenborough looks at the history and contribution of the ground-breaking BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol. As a result of the NHU's presence, Bristol has accumulated a unique set of broadcasting talents and skills and natural history programme making has become a part of the city's cultural identity.
Tom Archer says that Bristol's unique character has always made it an engaging and challenging place to make television programmes and now it is perfectly placed to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise as the BBC increases its influence throughout the regions.
Clare Hudson describes how, by developing home-grown talent and attracting new blood to the region, BBC Wales has moved away from the stereotypes of choirs, miners and sheep to deliver successful drama and factual network programming to audiences across the UK.
RTD, as he is known to Doctor Who fans, is an adopted son of Manchester but says that, although the place where you keep your collection of Doctor Who videos ends up shaping the way you describe the world, Wales is still home too and 'Made in Wales' something he is proud of. His ambition has been for BBC Wales to be seen as a centre for excellence for drama, with a base firm enough to survive the end of any one series.
In a world of global media providers, the BBC lives or dies on its distinctive range of voices and its unique breadth of talent and can achieve this only by significant investment in the nations and regions. In the past most programmes were made by people from similar backgrounds; creating centres of production in the various nations and regions will change this. Another major change is in news provision, where a variety of choice is a democratic imperative, but as newsgathering is under pressure, the BBC is even more vital.
Ailsa Orr says that although local programming is very successful in Northern Ireland, network series produced in the nations and regions give people an even greater sense of ownership in the output of the BBC and a pride in the fact that their area has produced television that is being enjoyed right across the UK. More network production is encouraging a two-way traffic of talented people between Northern Ireland and London, building a sustainable and vibrant creative economy.
Made in Northern Ireland: an Actor's View - James Nesbitt
James Nesbitt has enjoyed a relationship with the BBC in Northern Ireland since the 1980s. Although geographically small, Northern Ireland punches well above its weight in its creative expertise and James appreciates the benefits of the creative relationships that he has established by working regularly with the same people in a community that welcomes filmmakers.
Christine Bleakley uses the example of the path her own career took at BBC Northern Ireland – from runner to floor manager to presenter – to show how important the regions are to the BBC in training and producing people who will shape the industry in years to come.
The Northern Renaissance: a Personal View - Peter Salmon
Peter Salmon, who will be based in Salford Quays as Director, BBC North, says that one way for the BBC to address the problem of how to represent the whole of the nation is to move on to the territory. By opening a massive new production centre in Salford, the BBC is planting its feet in the north. The new centre's title – BBC North at MediaCity – reflects its aims of embracing viewers, listeners and creative people around the whole of the region.
Cheryl Taylor describes her role in encouraging comedy production in areas where there was little activity and in countering perceptions that comedy from the nations and regions was an amateurish cousin of glamorous London product. BBC comedy provides a positive role model for devolving production to the nations and regions although Wales and Northern Ireland are still under-represented.
Ron Cook maintains that strong regional production is important for the cultural and economic health of the UK and to keep talent on the doorstep. MediaCityUK, the new media city being built at Salford Quays, gives the BBC an opportunity to build on the rich broadcasting tradition of the north west and to take it forward in a new direction. He gives examples of how Salford University, as one of the first tenants of MediaCityUK, will develop new courses, interactive spaces and creative collaboration and how the new base will provide opportunities to increase and extend the range of its collaborative initiatives with the BBC.
Alex Connock is an unabashed proponent of MediaCityUK – and a fan of the BBC – and wants indies like his company Ten Alps to work with the BBC to make it, and the Manchester media scene in general, as great as it can be.
Jonnie Turpie says that British broadcasting needs to reflect the country's diversity, exemplified in the Birmingham region, and invites broadcasters and independents to work together to establish hubs of digital media to reflect the regions through digital content, production and distribution.
Donalda MacKinnon discusses the crucial role to be played by BBC Scotland to represent better the vast diversity of the UK. A solid base has been established to enable BBC Scotland to produce more quality content for a network audience while also continuing to make high-quality programmes for audiences in Scotland by tapping into the country's great reserves of creativity.
Anne Mensah describes the three-step plan put in place by BBC Drama Scotland to create a sustainable creative infrastructure: first, to make sure there was enough work; second, to enable contemporary Scottish life to be reflected on screen; and finally and most importantly, to build a stable and sustainable economy for television drama in Scotland.
Harry Bell describes the benefits to be gained from attending a course like the Research Centre's Executive Producer Programme (now the Series Producer Programme), in particular the opportunity to build up a network of professional contacts and relationships.
Archaeologist and presenter Neil Oliver describes his belief in the value of history and his involvement in the making of BBC Scotland's ten-part series A History of Scotland. He makes a case for having a BBC presence in Scotland, not just a single site but in different localities to achieve global reach with local feel.