Speech given to the British Property Federation Conference
South Wales, 27 January 2003
checked against delivery
and let me start by saying how pleased I am to be here.
I could speak in any one of three roles Director-General of the
BBC; part-time developer of a number of largish buildings in Devon and
Cornwall and finally property owner with a partner who feels deprived
if we're not rebuilding part of our house every year.
latter of these roles, it's not often you get the opportunity to tell
builders and developers what you really think about what they do
or more to the point don't do so I couldn't resist your invitation
to speak today.
worry, Im going to speak in my serious role as the head of the
the buildings an organisation commissions, builds or lives in often
tell you a lot about the sort of organisation it is. That's certainly
true of the BBC.
father of the BBC - Lord Reith - understood this dynamic all too well.
Look at Broadcasting House, opened as the first purpose built home of
the BBC in Portland Place in central London back in 1932.
unquestionable is the conscious emphasis on quality and authority -
the Portland stone, the remarkable and famous Gill sculptures. When
it was opened it was classic example of a 30s building.
it's still impressive. Imposing even. It speaks of a self-confident
organisation with a clear vision of its role in the world.
of today's world.
As a building
its patriarchal, even frightening. It certainly isn't welcoming
look at the reception.
famous BBC Council Chamber with windows so high that no one can see
in or out.
the BBC of another era, an era when institutions were accorded respect
just because they were institutions.
it was built in an era when newsreaders wore dinner suits and were made
to stand up to read the news. And that was for radio.
staff who were the guilty party in a divorce case were summarily dismissed.
we live, quite rightly, in a less deferential age and today the BBC
needs buildings which connect with our audiences not buildings that
House is in itself a national cultural icon.
reflects life as it was then not the BBC we want to build today.
a couple of decades from the opening of Broadcasting House and television
had joined radio as a medium and Television Centre was built in Shepherd's
and famously designed on an envelope - although as you can see it was
the front rather than the proverbial back - Television Centre with its
characteristic question-mark lay-out is also a classic of its era and
the last few decades the BBC in common with many other organisations
in the public sector has lost its way somewhat with its buildings.
point in the late 60s or early 70s the emphasis seemed to shift
for understandable reasons towards economy and thrift.
our buildings over the last 30 years or so have demonstrated an appreciation
of price but not value.
have been built to both Broadcasting House and Television Centre
extensions so ugly that the original architects would have seen them
just up the road from Television Centre, is the BBC's piece de resistance,
a building which is known in the BBC as Ceacescu Towers a description
reflecting its similarity to many buildings constructed in post-war
communist Eastern Europe.
the BBC headquarters in White City.
only built a decade ago and I find it little short of disgraceful that
a public body like the BBC should have commissioned such a building.
the way, I don't blame the architects and builders for this.
all about a brief from the client - us - which was driven by considerations
of costs above all else.
where so much of the public sector ended up in an era when any expenditure
on the public sector, let alone public sector buildings, was frowned
that era has past.
tell you a story about this building which tells you so much about so
many public bodies.
this horrible building is a courtyard, quite a nice courtyard actually.
When I arrived at the BBC no-one was allowed in the courtyard. It had
been closed since the building opened.
only did people have to work in this awful building, where even the
room numbering system makes it impossible to find any room, you couldn't
even go out on nice sunny days into the only decent part of the complex.
asked why was this the case I was told the magic words "health
and safety". In fact you had to wear a hard hat to even venture
into the courtyard.
I was the new Director-General and hadn't yet been worn down by years
of BBC bureaucracy I decided to take it further.
the fairly obvious question what were the health and safety risks? Silence.
I asked again.
few months the message came back that there was no wheelchair ramp and
we needed an extra fire door. That was it - a ramp and a door.
found out why people had been wearing hard hats for all those years.
So I put
in the door and built a wheelchair ramp not personally of course
and declared the courtyard open with a party for the staff working
at the party was amazing one group asked me could we go on the
balconies now? They too had been closed for ten years.
asked does this mean we can paint our offices a colour other than grey?
I bumped into one of the building managers and told him all these exciting
things. And what did he say? He said "look what youve started
joined the BBC three years ago I found an organisation which while robust
in many areas was an unhappy place, lacking in that confidence which
had so characterised earlier periods in the BBC's history.
symbol of this was the buildings.
something which I saw at first hand when during my first three months
- while I was still technically Director-General Designate - I went
on a tour of the whole organisation across the UK.
To be honest
I was shocked. While some of our London offices left much to be desired
it was the local buildings around the rest of the United Kingdom which
were the poorest.
the state of some of the buildings endured by our people working in
local radio - buildings which hadn't been touched since the late 60s
and early 70s.
can imagine I used to comment regularly on the shambolic state of these
buildings to the people I met - who by the way bore it all with remarkable
that was how it had to be in the public sector, just as the staff do
in hospitals or the local authority.
than not they used to reply knowingly "If you think this is bad,
wait till you see Stoke".
point out they meant our building in Stoke not the whole of the city.
did get to Radio Stoke, I can tell you it didn't disappoint and lived
up to its billing.
I thought our worst building was Leicester
a building so bad that when we move out to our new building in 2005
I'm not even sure the local dossers will choose to move in.
So I resolved
that as an organisation we had to do something about this and asked
our Finance Director, John Smith, who is sitting over there, to lead
a re-think of our whole approach to property.
him to re-asses our priorities while not forgetting the costs (of course
being the Finance Director there was never much chance of that!).
to the wonder of PFIs, and the fact that we owned many of our freeholds,
we were able to form a joint venture which lets Land Securities finance
a redevelopment programme using the value of the freeholds.
or should I say John discovered as he is the only person who
still understands the finances of our property strategy that
it was possible to rebuild many of our existing buildings and still
spend very little more every year on the total property budget.
So in the
past three years we have embarked on one of Britain's biggest and perhaps
the most ambitious programmes of renewal at no additional cost
to the licence fee payer.
it is so ambitious that if one day you read of my sudden resignation
it will probably be due to the fact that it is too ambitious and I should
have spent longer trying to understand the finances.
consolation will be that John would have gone the day before.
the programme is a philosophy and I'd like to spend a few minutes now
talking through both our philosophy and the progress we have made so
of the White City courtyard convinced me that the BBC would never fulfil
its role as a public service broadcaster for the 21st century, as opposed
to the 20th century, unless we could change the culture of the organisation.
As I said
to all our staff in a nationwide telecast "just imagine" how
great this place could be, "just imagine" what we could produce
if only we could get rid of the crap, the cynicism, the people who tell
you why you can't do things rather than tell you how you can.
As a gimmick
to sell the whole change programme I invented yellow cards which said
"Cut the crap make it happen" which anyone can bring
out at a meeting if nothing is happening. They are used quite regularly.
way, anyone who wants one can order them from John Smith at £5
a time. The money will go to Children in Need.
a year ago I launched an initiative designed to change the culture of
Making it Happen it has the simple but ambitious aim of making the BBC
the most creative organisation in the world.
it Happen is not a top down, nor a consultant-led process. It is owned
and driven by people across the BBC.
12 months since launch around 10,000 people across the BBC have taken
part in a Making it Happen session sessions which we call "just
imagine" and in which people talk about their feelings for
their job, for the BBC and their colleagues.
this week I will launch the BBC's new Values document which is drawn
from what those 10,000 members of staff told us.
of the central drivers for change in Making it Happen is a team drawn
from across the BBC which is looking at how we bring real improvements
to the working environment.
a simple belief underpinning this thinking: our ambition to be the world's
most creative organisation begins and ends with the people who work
staff are among some of the most creative people I've ever met and they
really believe in the organisation, its aims and ideals.
staff survey we do shows that the people working for us feel a real
sense of pride in and commitment to the BBC.
them joined the BBC because they saw it as an organisation which does
something special. That something is public service broadcasting.
passionate about what they do and will unite around simple, inspiring
also capable of magnificent achievements when given the space and confidence
to do so.
the kind of people who make The Office or devote years to producing
series like Blue Planet or the Life of Mammals or who can bring history
to life for millions of people with series like Simon Schama's History
people need working environments which inspire and excite them. Not
environments which oppress and depress them.
environments which expand their horizons not limit them.
"Making it Happen" the team driving the creation of these
kinds of working environments is called the Great Spaces Group.
spirit of not-being top down I thought I would let them speak for themselves.
A few months ago they made this short film about their plans and activity...
150 people in six locations have gone through a one day event with the
Great Spaces Bus.
since we launched the Great Spaces project, over 1,200 people in 85
locations across the BBC including places as far afield as Nairobi have
made proposals to improve their workplace which we have implemented.
me try to sum up our property vision.
we want properties that are at the centre of towns, not hidden away
in some industrial estate, properties which in particular are accessible
to everyone, especially the public. It's their BBC not our BBC.
we want properties which are fun, which are entertaining, where we can
put the individuality back into personal space.
we are in a fast changing industry so we want technologically enabled
flexible space so we can stay at the cutting edge of our business.
we want quality architecture which will stand the test of time. I don't
want anything to be built in my time as Director-General which I will
be ashamed of within a decade. No more Ceacescu Towers.
have to build new buildings; we're very happy to be tenants in other
people's wonderful buildings but we do want them to be buildings
is the context for our deal with Land Securities Trillium to manage
our property portfolio. At its best this is an absolute win-win for
money which can then be spent on air and on screen.
let me tell you that we've reduced the total amount of money spent on
the BBC's overhead by £200 million a year in three years and all
of that is now being spent on programmes.
also our partners in the re-development of the White City complex, which
is a great example of the partnership at its best.
does the management partnership enable us to do much more with the building
than we could have done in previous years, its also currently six months
ahead of schedule - a source of even more savings!
next few years over £2 billion will be invested in our property
we will be working with our partners to gain maximum bang for our buck
we will also strive not to repeat some of the mistakes of the last three
Broadcasting House and Television Centre were iconic of the BBC in their
age - the confident solidity of the 30s and the optimistic modernism
of the 60s - we now need to look for the similar symbols for the 21st
century and create buildings which reflect the values and ethos of the
At a local
level, this can be seen in our new Open Centres.
two years ago in Radio Lancashire in Blackburn and now rolling out across
the UK these Open Centres represent both a new service and a practical
symbol of an open accessible organisation.
in local radio station offices they are designed to give a welcoming
shop-front style access to a range of BBC services - for example on-line
learning opportunities - as well as involving the community directly
in the broadcasting operation.
the change here in Sheffield. Heres the old building
the new place
the new production studios for our internet and interactive operations
BBCi in the historic setting of Bush House, on The Aldwych, are literally
redevelopment of our White City complex in partnership with LST I mentioned
a few moments ago will create public spaces as well as offices which
while never breaching security (important now more than ever for a high
profile public body like the BBC) will put the BBC in touch with its
local community in a way which Television Centre for all its strengths
simply can't do.
the development will have the added benefit of hiding the monstrosity
of Ceacescu Towers!
impressive as you can see.
say that I and my immediate team are looking forward to moving there
later in the year when to accommodate the redevelopment of Broadcasting
House we will leave central London.
same site we also hope to build a major music centre which will
provide both a concert venue and a base for the BBC's remarkable orchestras.
As I have
already said, we are determined that all our new building projects will
be special and have impact.
make a difference to the people who work in them and the communities
who live around them.
be true of the BBC solus developments like White City or the truly remarkable
Pacific Quay, our planned new Scottish headquarters in Glasgow.
I've said it's not just about projects we lead and develop for ourselves.
ambition will apply when we choose to move into developments owned by
others - like the Mailbox in Birmingham and
our new base in Norwich.
that these are great examples of buildings the BBC will share with the
communities it serves.
the clearest statement of all is the redevelopment of our historic home
- the original Broadcasting House. Our vision for Broadcasting House
is genuinely ambitious.
it will be functional. At its heart will be a flexible state of the
art broadcast centre fit for the technological challenges of the digital
house the largest broadcast news centre in the world. It will maximise
the use of space, allowing us to consolidate our four major London sites
into three and so saving money.
also be built to last - we insisted that it pass the 50 year test.
plans go much further than that.
the best of modern architecture and building technology seamlessly with
the existing Broadcasting House we want to create something really special.
which represents both our respect for our heritage and our passionate
faith in our future.
also be a great place to work - somewhere which attracts the best people
because they want to be part of something special and then enables and
inspires them to great things.
absolutely be a symbol of the sort of organisation we want to be.
Broadcasting House will represent today's BBC in today's Britain.
old Broadcasting House I hope it will be a national landmark, an iconic
of the nation's great cultural institutions the BBC has a responsibility
to apply the same creative rigour and ambition which we apply to our
programmes to our buildings.
why we are being bold and confident so that we contribute once again
to the nation's architectural and cultural heritage.
already completed and moved into new local headquarters in more than
20 locations across the UK from Truro to Aberdeen, from Guernsey
to Bangor with another 30-odd in the pipeline.
by the way, Radio Stoke finally moved into a new building last year
and I was delighted to be there to open it along with the Princess
Royal of course!