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The NAO report on the BBC's relocation to Salford

Peter Salmon

Director, BBC Studios (formerly Director, England)

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"The BBC relocated to Salford on time and maintained broadcast continuity. The latest estimates show that the final cost of the move phase should be below the revised budget of £233 million…"

You might be mistaken for thinking that was something I would say. In fact it was the National Audit Office in their Value For Money report this week on the BBC’s move to Salford published by the BBC Trust.

Even before we first started moving here two years ago this month, we knew that establishing a thriving creative base in the North of England was going to be a big challenge – both internally and externally.

For those people whose jobs were moving, the priority was to offer the right level of support. In the end fifty-seven per cent moved to the North - double the BBC's original target. Their skills and experience formed the backbone that ensured broadcast and production continuity. It also meant less was spent on redundancy, which is nearly twice as expensive as moving people.

And to be clear - no one was ‘induced’ or ‘bribed’ to move. People made their decisions based on their own personal circumstances.

For those outside the BBC, we had to demonstrate that we were committed to the region and serious about making a difference.

In the end, we achieved what some scarcely thought possible. BBC North was delivered on time, under budget and the teams based here have continued to make some of the very best programmes for all audiences from Blue Peter to Match of The Day. And just this week BBC Radio 5 live won Sony UK Station of the Year.

BBC Children’s is playing a major role in revitalising the region’s creative industry with a slate of original programmes like Wolfblood and Strange Hill High.

Comedy is getting a new lease of life with original shows like Hebburn, Citizen Khan and Peter Kay's In The Car, while drama has tapped the rich heritage of Northern story-telling. The last two years has seen some brilliant drama including The Syndicate and Prisoners’ Wives as well as recommissioned series Last Tango In Halifax, The Village and The Paradise.

Our news and current affairs output – from Breakfast to BBC Radio Manchester, from BBC Radio 5 live to our sports news and Newsround – is bringing a wider range of voices and opinions to a national and international audience.

And we are creating a new relationship with audiences. Starting with Frankenstein’s WeddingLive In Leeds in 2011 and Preston Passion last Easter we are working with partners to create unique events. This week we are supporting Liverpool's Walker Gallery Rankin exhibition, subject of a BBC Two Culture Show special and in a few weeks BBC Three’s Bollywood Carmen will be live in Bradford’s City Park.

In terms of employment, we have created almost eight hundred new jobs. Half were recruited from the North West with two hundred and fifty four coming from Greater Manchester alone.

And Salfordians make up ten per cent of our staff with initiatives like our Young Ambassadors and BBC North Apprentices, and we are working with schools, colleges and universities to build the future workforce.

Of course, on a project of this scale and ambition there were some things we could have been done better.

We should have kept more detailed records in a small number of relocation cases. However the NAO did not find any irregularities at all and those learnings have been applied to the BBC’s relocation policy.

While the report says it is too early to judge if we will deliver value for money, I believe we have made a promising start.

As well as identifying eighty per cent of our twenty-year efficiency savings, we have begun to make an impact in the creative and regional economy. The NAO highlight our increased economic impact in the region and we are forging a closer relationship with audiences across the North of England.

With two years under our belts, BBC North is in a strong position to make a sustainable and long-term contribution in the North of England and all Licence Fee payers across the UK.

Peter Salmon is Director, BBC North


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