Salford, England and BBC Studios
Director, BBC Studios (formerly Director, England)
When I was growing up, I wanted to be the editor of the Burnley Express. To a teenage boy in a small Lancashire town, running the local paper, and getting the inside scoop from Turf Moor, seemed just about the best way to earn a living. A dream job, if you like.
In the intervening years, I’ve been fantastically lucky in my career. I never made it to the editorship of the Express back in Burnley but I’ve had some brilliant jobs - running BBC One and BBC Sport, working in senior roles at ITV and Channel 4. I've just got another one, running BBC Studios. But what’s turned out to be the dream job is the one I’ve been doing for seven years now. I became director of BBC North when MediaCityUK was just not much more than a scrap of land by the old Salford docks. The dream was to better serve all our audiences and keep the BBC relevant to everyone in the digital age -very much our mission now, as we battle for a strong Charter.
So we’ve built the most advanced broadcasting centre in Europe where the docks once stood. And now we’ve been joined by some of the biggest names in the industry – ITV, Shine, Red - in what’s now an internationally important hub, home to 7,000 media professionals. If you’d imagined that a decade ago, people would have said you were dreaming.
Some cynics scoffed at the suggestion the BBC could ever build a thriving base on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal. Some said moving big departments and popular programmes outside London would be a nightmare. But now The Voice UK, our big Saturday night BBC1 show is filmed in the studios and every single morning BBC Breakfast is broadcast from here.
We hear much about creating a Northern Powerhouse – but we’ve already done it and now we’re powering ahead. By the end of 2015, the BBC will have more than 3,000 staff in Salford, once Children in Need and even more digital developers have moved in. Each year, 39,000 hours of output reaching 100 million people worldwide is produced on site in Salford. We’ve made the dream a reality.
BBC North is the BBC's second biggest creative hub, the biggest news centre outside of London, home to half of the BBC’s digital products and base to some of the BBC’s best programmes including Match of the Day, Dragon’s Den, You & Yours, Blue Peter and CBeebies shows.
From Car Share to Clangers, Happy Valley to Wolfblood, we’re making more new BBC hits right across the north than ever before and better reflecting areas once badly under-served by the national broadcaster.
And we’re not confined to our canal-side buildings in Salford. BBC North’s reach stretches out to the Humber, the Mersey, the Tyne and the Wear – and even some parts of the region without major waterways.
Last year I was given an expanded role to export some of the Salford spirit of creativity and collaboration to the BBC in other parts of England. There’s still more we can do in Bristol and Birmingham but we’ve been making progress.
So it feels like a good time to bow out. I’m moving on to a new challenge running an exciting new venture for the BBC (sounds familiar). BBC Studios will help reinvent television production to make great UK-owned content for an era of global competition in the age of the internet. It’s a new venture to put our programme-making on a sound-footing for the future, with 2,000 creatives producing great work, from David Attenborough's natural history landmarks to Strictly Come Dancing.
There’s already been a lot written about the future of the BBC and a lot more will be written soon as we fight to continue our mission. But the success of BBC North will never be written out of the script. The north is now in the BBC’s DNA. In fact, it is the digital developers based in MediaCityUK who are probably dreaming up our future and the future of media technology - from the iPlayer to the BBC Sport App.
I’m enormously proud of what we’ve achieved in seven years. It’s been a dream, actually. I know those achievements will continue as we seek to build a new BBC.
- Read the press release announcing Peter Salmon as Director of BBC Studios on the Media Centre website.