The BBC at MediaCity:UK – A Good Idea?

Originally posted on General Musings of an Idiot.

So far, we’ve seen both Sian Williams and Chris Hollins, two stalwarts of the Breakfast sofa, turn down a move to Salford, which is understandable bearing in mind both have families. Susanna Reid and Bill Turnbull will stay with Breakfast, both citing ‘a challenge’, but over half of all BBC Breakfast staff will leave before the big move to Salford in April 2012, leaving just 46% of those who work for them currently. As many have said, moving to Salford will also change the set-up of the show. No longer with the Prime Minister be able to jump in a car and discuss yesterday’s speech, and the A-List celebrities will stay in London, and not jet into Manchester Airport to make a quick-fire dash to the red sofa.

It all seems a little crazy to me – I understand why it is being done, and I appreciate the fact that by decentralising a fair chunk of the BBC’s output, more jobs are created. But take BBC Sport for example – why move the whole department a year before the greatest sporting event of all-time hits, ironically, London?

Surely it makes more sense for them to stay in London until after the Olympics? I can already see the Daily Mail headlines, moaning and groaning about the cost of travel and accommodation for all the staff back down to Stratford…

Likewise with Radio 5 Live. Understandably, moving BBC Sport up north would leave Five Live with not a lot of other options, but again, leaving London could prove a bit mistake just before the Olympics. Big guests and big names are scattered across the Five Live schedule – and already there are ‘casualties’. Richard Bacon has decided he will only commute to Manchester, as opposed to move, and Gabby Logan will finish her show later on in the year before the move takes place. The majority of sport takes place in London because it is our capital, and thus is a hub for sporting competition and news. For instance, London hosts Wimbledon, Twickenham, Wembley Stadium, five Premier League clubs, Lord’s cricket ground, the Boat Race, the athletics at Crystal Palace, and an annual NFL game, to name but a few. And did we mention 2012? I know that sport happens up and down the country, but London is, and will remain, a centre of sporting excellence.

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Or what about Children’s TV? There are some rumours circling that Blue Peter, after 43 years on BBC television, may be moved to a digital channel, in order to ‘cut costs’. This comes after the news that Andy Akinwolere will leave the show before it moves to Salford, and Helen Skelton may also go. It will also bring an end to the now world-famous Blue Peter Garden, which is currently in the process of becoming a Grade II-listed building, through English Heritage.

I know a fair few people who work for the BBC – some in notable roles – and there are only a couple who believe this move is a good thing for the corporation. One guy was in the meeting when Director General Mark Thompson announced the move to Salford, and posed the question ‘Well, if we’ve got to move to spread our coverage, why not move the headquarters?’ Quite a valid question, I figured. But supposedly he smiled and said that it ‘wasn’t possible’, maybe proving that this decision is to please those who wanted to decentralise, as opposed to actually being of any necessity.

However, there are a lot of positives. The development will create over 10,000 jobs, and add an extra £1 billion to the regional economy over the coming few years. It will give people up and down the country an opportunity to be involved in the best media outlet the globe has ever seen, and inspire people around the world to come and work for them. Seeing as I count myself amongst the latter, I am truly excited to see if this works. And, should I get to work at MediaCity:UK for the BBC Sport team, then it’s a dream come true. And I’m closer to Old Trafford, too.

But should Television Centre be sold, as some are speculating, then that is an absolute travesty. Possibly the most iconic media building of all time, TV Centre should remain precisely that, even if used for a different purpose. Turning it into flats, or flogging it for retail space, or making a big office out of it was not, and is not fulfilling its purpose. The BBC need to think long and hard before deciding the future of a building that still gives journalists butterflies. I visited little over a month ago, and it made me crave a job at the BBC. Not only that, but the minute I saw it, I smiled. That’s the effect that majestic building has on people.

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Also next year we will see the opening of the renovated Broadcasting House. Not only will it now house the whole of the BBC Radio output, it will be home to BBC News, minus Breakfast, and include the world’s largest newsroom. It will be something else that the BBC can be very proud of.

So, where does that leave us? Personally, I think spreading the BBC’s output across the country is a great idea, but I don’t think moving these departments is a step in the right direction. I would love to be proved wrong, but surely moving Sport, Children’s, Breakfast and Five Live outside of the capital of this great nation is a very sheltered decision? The whole point of moving them in the first place was to create much better, quality programming that could be recognised as exactly that. But if the staff themselves aren’t willing to move, then I’m sorry, but this could be a massive, massive mistake. Mark Thompson has tried to make the most of a bad situation in this economic climate, but moving arguably three of the BBC’s biggest departments to Salford, 218 miles from London, will make drastic and dramatic changes to programmes that don’t necessarily warrant nor need a change. I just pray and hope that this turns into the best decision the BBC ever make.

Agree or disagree with me? You can comment using the boxes below, Tweet me on @Adam9309, or drop me an email by clicking here. Would love to hear your opinions on it all!

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