Keeping the rocket boosters firing

Director, BBC Studios (formerly Director, England)

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Last week the Chancellor George Osborne delivered the annual BBC North Brian Redhead Lecture. Paying tribute to the former Today presenter, the Chancellor celebrated Brian’s fierce Northern pride.

He said that it injected a non-metropolitan perspective into the BBC’s national and international coverage. For the same reason he argued, our move to Salford wasn’t only good for our audiences but for the BBC as well.

Of course, I have to agree with him....

Our home in Salford is home to hundreds of journalists, making Salford the biggest news and current affairs hub outside London. This ensures that we can deliver that non-metropolitan perspective on the issues of the day.

Take BBC Breakfast. It has been broadcasting from Salford for just over a year and there is a tangible difference in terms of the range of places and faces on the programme now. Earlier this week Breakfast was in Nelson, Lancashire, covering Mary Portas' bid to renew our high streets to life.

On a daily basis they are working with new experts from across the region. Recently it has included Tim O’Brien from Jodrell Bank, Dr Peter Mackereth from The Christie, retail expert Professor Isabelle Szmigin and former Detective Chief Superintendent Jane Antrobus. There’s even been a storm chaser - Sam Smith from Lymm. Fresh faces and voices we would not have discovered in West London.

That is because there is one big advantage being in Salford. Drive an hour from central London and you are still in London, but an hour from Salford you are in a very different part of the country, with different views and perspectives on the world.

But to quote my colleague Stuart Maconie – there’s not ‘one North’, but many.

The Chancellor also noted how our move is making an impact on the regional economy. Indeed, with his constituency in nearby Tatton, he was one the earliest supporters of the BBC’s move to Salford.

Last year at the Manchester Business School I referred to defying the gravity of London. Last week the Chancellor also commented on the importance of resisting our powerful capital’s pull at times.

Manchester has been doing this for some time through the renewal of the city centre, the growth of the university and the transformation of our own neighbourhood, Salford Quays. And by moving entire BBC departments to MediaCityUK we are helping to reverse that pull - not only in terms of the economy but also in terms of jobs and training.

Last year the value generated for the North economy due to BBC expenditure in the region with businesses – the Gross Value Added –increased by almost twenty per cent to £391 million.

In the North East BBC Children’s is playing a major role in revitalizing their creative industries. In the North West and Yorkshire we are investing more in original drama like Last Tango in Halifax and in a few days we will be in Bradford for Bollywood Carmen Live on BBC Three. In December BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2013 will come from Leeds.

We have also made a promising start in terms of recruitment in the North West and working with universities and independent production companies across the North of England to offer traineeships and placements within our business.

I was very proud when the Chancellor referred to our move to the North as a “spectacular success”.

It has been built on a delivering this move on time and under budget and ensuring that broadcasting and programme making was uninterrupted.

But it is also critical that we keep what the Chancellor called our 'rocket boosters’ firing.

We are still committed to moving more jobs to MediaCityUK. Not only will that increase how much and what we make across the region, but it will also increase employment opportunities both within the BBC and with the companies we work with.

That’s got to be good - not only for the BBC and business, but for our audiences. I think Brian Redhead would have approved.

Peter Salmon is Director, BBC North



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