Thursday 20 September 2007
Good morning everyone. I first set foot on Pacific Quay eight years ago. It was a time when – you may find this hard to believe – but it was a time when a very lively debate was going on about the future of broadcasting in Scotland...
There was also a very lively debate going on inside the BBC about whether BBC Scotland really needed a new broadcast centre – and, if so, where it should be built. The then Controller John McCormick and his team believed passionately that the answer was yes and right here. They knew that BBC Scotland had a chance to be part of something bigger. A visionary piece of regeneration and redevelopment. A concentration of the creative industries with amazing economic and cultural potential. A statement about this city and this country and their future.
Not everyone in London was quite as enthusiastic. I remember getting up at four o'clock one June morning in 1999 and being taken through every part of this city, looking at and taking photographs of every conceivable site to try to bring the options and the vision to life. And I ended up here.
There were rather more carrier bags and seagulls and rather less red stone and steel than there is today, but I saw at once that – of course – BBC Scotland was right. The doubts evaporated, the whole BBC got behind the vision and here we are today in what is not just the most advanced broadcast centre we have anywhere, but one of the most advanced in the world.
Many people deserve our thanks today. David Chipperfield, our architect, and his team; John McCormick, for his original vision and his determination; the Broadcasting Councils for Scotland, and their tenacious chairmen; Kenny MacQuarrie, our present Controller of BBC Scotland, and all his colleagues – especially Iain Marley, the Pacific Quay project director. The many partners here in Scotland and beyond who have made it happen.
The building and the site remind us of the way in which Scotland is woven into the fabric of the BBC. We're standing on what was once the Cessnock, later the Prince's Dock. Instrumental in its excavation was George Reith, the grandfather of our founder, John Reith. I'm delighted that John's daughter, Marista, has been able to join us today. In her recent book about her father, she claims that the "tall ghost" of the BBC's first DG "still stalks the corridors of Broadcasting House".
Well, we've restored his original office table from Savoy Hill in London and put it on the third floor of this building. So Kenny – don't be too surprised if you occasionally glimpse a stooped but still very vigilant figure looking over your shoulder.
Having invested so much effort and so much money in this amazing building, it's now vital that not just BBC Scotland but the whole BBC uses it to its full potential.
From The McFlannels to Still Game, from Doctor Finlay's Casebook to Monarch Of The Glen across TV, radio and increasingly digital media, BBC Scotland has a brilliant creative track record making memorable, distinctive, valuable output for our audiences here and across the UK. But I know that the Scotland of today has the talent, the energy and the determination to go much further.
We're already committed to raising network deliveries from the nations to at least 17% of relevant output as part of our wider strategy of shifting the weight of our operations and our investment out of London and the South East of England and towards audiences and talent in the other nations and regions. Network deliveries from BBC Scotland not only can but must grow to at least its proportion of the UK population – though I regard that as a floor rather than any kind of ceiling.
To do that, we expect to relaunch a number of existing programme titles here in Pacific Quay. We also want to commission many more fresh ideas from Scottish programme-makers – both from our brilliant in-house teams and from the burgeoning Scottish indie sector. More Scottish-based drama, more network comedy hits like Still Game, more entertainment, children's programmes and finally more specialist factual, particularly building on the excellence in the arts genre. We want to use the outstanding HD and digital production facilities here to make output we can show to audiences across the UK and the world. And we want to boost network radio and multimedia production from here too.
But this building will also be the headquarters of our services to the Scottish public – both existing ones and our new ideas, like our plans to use the web and broadband to transform our coverage of and connections with Scotland's diverse and distinctive regions. Indeed it's going to be the main base for BBC Scotland's journalism as a whole, transformed by technology but still grounded in conviction and expertise and an old-fashioned commitment to qualities like fairness and impartiality. We want to go on faithfully telling Scotland's story. We want to go on being one of the main meeting-places where Scots come together to discuss their future.
Pacific Quay is a test-bed for what the BBC could become, not just in technology but in creativity and the way people work together. It's our future. That why I feel so proud today: of this building of course, but also of all the people who have made it happen and who will now work in it.