Mark Thompson defends BBC plans for Manchester and Glasgow moves

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson has shrugged of criticism from the likes of the Daily Mail and given a robust defence of plans to move key BBC departments into regional centres.

The Corporation is poised to move 2,300 posts to Salford and flag-ship programmes such as Question Time to Glasgow in a development which will see half of all BBC production take place outside the Capital by 2016.

However, the plans have come under increasing fire from the UK national press, which by and large is based inside London itself. One title, The Daily Mail, described the plans as ‘lunacy’ earlier this week.

Writing in The Guardian Thompson said: “Those who believe that the only place where you can find great talent or make outstanding programmes is inside the M25 really should get out more. We live in a country that is bursting with creative potential.

“The BBC exists to serve and represent the whole country, not just the capital. Its first duty is to deliver the best possible programmes, but we believe that we can do that best by opening our doors to talent and perspective from every part of Britain.

“We think of the licence fee not just as a charge the public pays for outstanding services, but as a seed corn for the creative industries.

“You wouldn't realise that, of course, if you read some of the London-based print media for whom our move is not about present success or future potential but a gloriously exaggerated story of distraught presenters (if you have tears, shed them now) and cost overruns.

“Take BBC North, our plan to move 2,300 posts into our new broadcast centre at MediaCityUK. This week I read that the project was going to cost the BBC £1bn. Shocking news indeed – if it were remotely true. The actual cost to the corporation of the project is £200m, which is the cost of relocating staff, fitting out the three buildings, and paying for the state-of-the-art digital technology we need.

“The £877m you may have seen reported in the media (rounded up to that shocking but fictitious "billion") is the combined cost of the project and the running costs of the BBC's share of MediaCityUK over the next 20 years. Not only would these costs have been incurred wherever the departments were based, they would actually have been greater over the same 20-year period if the departments which are moving had stayed in London.

“The BBC has always had a presence outside London, but the roots we are putting down now are deeper and stronger. Long after the bumps of the transition are forgotten, those roots will still be in place, feeding creativity, stimulating economic growth, and helping to deliver great programmes for audiences here and around the world.”

His stance will win support from those in centres such as Salford. A poll in The Drum website asked if readers felt the move to Manchester was a waste of money. 64% of those who voted supported the project. 20% said it was a waste and the remainder were undecided.

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