Boost to campaign for more BBC investment in Birmingham

Posted on 8 November 2013

MPs campaigning to get the Midlands off the bottom of the pile for BBC investment expect progress in weeks

Birmingham could be a matter of weeks away from a jobs boost from the BBC, according to politicians campaigning for a fairer deal from the broadcaster.

The Midlands currently sits bottom of the regional table for BBC investment, despite putting the most money into the corporation via the licence fee.

But campaigning creative sector firms and MPs say they now expect progress on the direction the corporation will take in the region by the end of November.

This comes before Birmingham-born Tommy Nagra, who has been appointed as the new head of business development for BBC in the city, starts his job next year.

The Post understands a Birmingham delegation was due to meet with the corporation last week, but this was postponed until mid-November as progress is being made under the guidance of new director general Tony Hall.

Mr Hall will be in the city on November 20 to meet local decision-makers.

MP Steve McCabe (Lab Selly Oak) said the time had passed for talk and he wanted to see progress that could be measured in investment and jobs.

He said: “Under (former director general) Mark Thompson Birmingham, and the wider West Midlands, fared really badly and we are not getting anything remotely near our fair share from the BBC. To be fair to Tony Hall, he seems to be saying the right things. We are not looking for a little bit from the big barrel – we are looking for a lot more, our fair share.

“We want the BBC to become an incubator for fresh, young talent, and where better to do it than here, the youngest city in Europe?

“I am optimistic we are going to get something quite detailed in the fullness of time, and I am expecting there will be something on the table by the time he comes.”

Midland viewers pay £912.3 million in licence fees each year – but the BBC spends less than £100 million here from a total budget of £4.1 billion.

The Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands says the region would be £400 million a year better off if the BBC spent the same in the Midlands as it does on average across the country. A total of 59 per cent of network television spending took place in London in 2011, with only 3.7 per cent in the Midlands. However, Ministers are convinced progress will be made under Mr Hall.

Earlier this year campaigners and MPs put a proposal to the corporation, which has a commitment to increase spending outside London and will see its current charter run out in 2016.

The thrust of the proposal was that Birmingham would take the lead in BBC digital projects. They are also calling for more home-grown production and more links with the city creatives. Labour MP for Edgbaston Gisela Stuart said she was sure progress was being made.

She said: “Having had a meeting with the BBC it is clear that they realise that we are reaching a point where we won’t be satisfied just by words – we are looking for something concerted, and we have been encouraged by what they said.

“Out meeting has been moved until later in November and we are quite confident that the BBC will have something to say by then.

“I don’t think it will be an all-encompassing answer, but the first piece of a jigsaw.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC Trust and the director general Tony Hall will be visiting the city later this month to meet key stakeholders. Their visit shows that The Midlands remains high on the BBC’s agenda.”

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