Cross Party letter to the Mark Thompson, DG of BBC
From: Gisela Stuart MP, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, John Hemming MP, Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP, Jack Dromey MP, Roger Godsiff MP, Shabana Mahmood MP, Steve McCabe MP
Councillors Tim Huxtable, Martin Mullaney, Sir Albert Bore
We are a cross party group of MPs and Councillors who request you to come to Birmingham, as a matter of urgency, to meet with us, to discuss the future of the BBC in Birmingham.
To Mark Thompson, DG, BBC White City, London W12 7TS
7th December, 2011
Dear Mr Thompson
The decision to drastically reduce the BBC’s presence in the City of Birmingham is unacceptable, unjustified and ultimately unsustainable. We write to you today as a cross-party group of elected representatives, at City Council and Parliamentary level, to urge you to think again.
The BBC has a long and proud history in Birmingham, as befits both the nation’s premier broadcasting institution and the largest of its provincial cities. But we are not opposed to these proposals on purely sentimental grounds. We are united in the view that the continuation of a major BBC presence in the city is essential to the economic vitality of Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region.
It is striking how these proposals run contrary to the BBC’s own professed duty to the regions. It appears to people in Birmingham that this “duty” is being applied in a manner that can at best be described as inconsistent. We have noted how the BBC has recently built a major studio in Glasgow, at a cost of £180million, to strengthen its presence in that part of the country, yet it is now planning to withdraw much of its operation from our, much larger, city and region. Furthermore, we observe that a further 1000 jobs are due to move to the Media City in Salford, on top of the 2000 jobs that have already been relocated to that facility.
This is wholly inequitable. If jobs can be moved out of London to Salford, there is no reason why they cannot be relocated from London to Birmingham. We already have the state of the art facilities to support those jobs here, which you personally opened just seven years ago. We would ask that you now make the BBC’s professed commitment to the regions a reality, by committing to invest in BBC Birmingham.
There is clearly a better way. The BBC supports a wide range of activities and these should be properly shared across the regions. This means that there has to be a renewed commitment to Birmingham and the West Midlands. We firmly believe that there are further BBC facilities that can be housed in Birmingham
Firstly, we would suggest that BBC3 production is moved to the city. Birmingham is one of the youngest cities in the country and is home to a rich and diverse community of people. A channel that is aimed at younger people and designed to reflect Britain’s cultural diversity would have a natural home in Birmingham and would draw great strength from an association with the second city.
Second, we note that the BBC’s Mailbox facility possesses state of the art radio drama and radio production studios. Under your current proposals, these facilities, which cost some £40million to build, will be reduced to being used over just four days a month for The Archers and local radio production. This is clearly wasteful and unsustainable, when they could be used to provide a home for a national channel. We suggest that moving Radio Two production to Birmingham would be an excellent use for these radio facilities. If Salford is considered a suitable place to house Radio Five Live, then Birmingham can host a major channel too.
Thirdly, we have a powerful creative output here in Birmingham. Drama and the arts are powerful drivers of our local economy and we are proud of the efforts that are made to nurture local talent. There is also a powerful history of drama production in the city – a history in which the BBC has played a leading role. We would propose that the BBC strengthens its offer in the city and West Midlands region by building a drama studio in Birmingham. This could provide a facility for the independent production companies that form a growing part of our local creative economy, as well as for BBC productions, which would make the proposal financially sustainable. If it is good enough for Glasgow, then it is good enough for Birmingham.
We believe that these proposals are sensible, well-measured and in the best interests of the BBC and the City of Birmingham. We ask that you come to Birmingham and meet with us to discuss these proposals and how we can ensure that the BBC retains a substantial and meaningful presence in our city in the future.
Gisela Stuart MP
on behalf of the above named Birmingham MPs and Councillors