Salmon urges caution over Bristol move

BBC Bristol, Whiteladies Road Modern programme making can be a challenge in BBC Bristol's Georgian townhouse home

Peter Salmon is urging caution over any move out of BBC Bristol's current headquarters.

With current pressures on the licence fee, the director of BBC North said the Corporation had to be 'clear about the financial and creative gains' that any relocation from Whiteladies Road would deliver.

Speaking to a business conference in Bristol on Tuesday, Salmon - lead of the Project England initiative which aims to increase collaboration between BBC centres in Salford, Birmingham and Bristol - admitted that BBC Bristol's 'imposing, characterful and individual' home did create challenges for modern programme making.

But he warned that, while a new building for Bristol remained on the BBC's to-do list, consideration had to be given to the impact any move would have on the city.

'A move to a new cluster at the expense of an established one could come as a hit - not a boost - to the city's creative economy.'

Salmon said the BBC liked the city's idea to develop a creative sector or 'unsquare mile' that would run along the river towards Whiteladies Road - so long as Bristol didn't lose its 'organic' way of working and 'intimate, highly networked' nature.

'I know the importance of neighbourhood interaction because we had to create an environment pretty much from scratch in Salford,' he explained. 'Yours by contrast has been fermenting for decades. They are different city models and we should reflect on that carefully.'

Salmon also highlighted the important relationship between the BBC and the city's economy.

He said the Corporation would spend more than £70m in the next financial year on around 500 hours of Bristol-made network tv.

The BBC is 'a catalyst' for creativity in Bristol, a 'disproportionately creative' city, he said.

It provided work, not only for BBC staff, but for freelancers, independent production companies, post-production houses and digital specialists.

'We are proud to be a major employer and a major investor here with a very big impact on the city's broader economy,' he said.

Meanwhile, the loss of Casualty to Cardiff in 2011 had only strengthened Bristol as a factual base, he believed.

Bristol had gained programmes from Birmingham, such as Countryfile, Gardeners' World and Chelsea Flower Show, while its natural history unit output 'has never been more buoyant or more celebrated'.

'Bristol is now by far the best BBC centre for nature, environment and rural factual output,' Salmon declared.

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