Petition seeks Midlands production boost

Staff at BBC Birmingham protesting Staff protest over moving out of the Mailbox in early 2012

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Bectu is backing a petition that will call on the BBC to make more network programmes in the Midlands.

The Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands believes that the BBC should redress the balance of network tv production, which it says has shifted away from the UK's second city and is having a negative impact on its economy.

Nearly 1400 people have already signed the petition, which claims the BBC's reduced presence in Birmingham is 'both iniquitous and a clear betrayal of the BBC's duty to all areas of the UK'.

It is 'not acceptable', it argues, that Midlanders contribute 19% of the licence fee but that only 3% is spent in the region.

The campaign follows job losses last year at BBC Birmingham as part of DQF. Factual programmes such as Countryfile, See Hear, Gardeners' World, Sky at Night and Points of View were moved from the Mailbox to Bristol between August and December.

March delivery

The decision triggered a series of strikes by Bectu members in early 2012, and the union says it supports the petition which 'reflects many of the concerns' it has raised.

The Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands - which is made up of 'licence fee payers, programme makers, actors, crafts people and others who have a passion for the region or the future of broadcasting in the UK' - aims to deliver the petition to BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten and new director general Tony Hall in March.

It will ask them to commit the future production of Doctors, The Archers and the Asian Network to Birmingham, expand the 'Drama Village' and create a Centre of Excellence for Radio Drama there.

And it wants the BBC to employ Midlands-based talent and commission Midlands-based independent production companies.

More Doctors

The BBC insists that the region remains an important production centre and points to its 'substantial' network drama base in Birmingham.

A BBC spokesperson said: 'Viewers have just enjoyed Father Brown on BBC One and the recently filmed WPC 56 starts on BBC One in the Spring [which were made in Birmingham]. In addition Doctors has grown from 21 hours in 2000 to 115.5 hours for series 13 in 2011.

'The iconic radio drama The Archers is made at the Mailbox in Birmingham and Ambridge Extra has been re-commissioned by Radio 4 Extra. These two productions alone represent a significant investment to radio drama in the region.'

Birmingham was also the headquarters of English Regions, home of BBC WM and Midlands Today, and one of the Asian Network's two bases.

'In addition, the BBC invests a significant amount in regional-based independent production companies,' added the spokesperson, who said the BBC was working to boost opportunities in the area.

'Working in partnership with Birmingham's Digital Media Businesses Cluster, the BBC hosted a day of events aimed at all participants in the digital sector. The next session, scheduled to run in early spring, will focus on in-house and independent commissioning at the BBC and the types of output that the BBC are looking for.'


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