I used to work for the BBC, firstly in one of the newsrooms, then for the commissioner of independent drama. I lasted about a year before I ran screaming for the door, vowing never to return. Even in those days, tokenism was the name of the game. It was all about having the right quota of gays, disabled, muslims, whatever was the minority du jour was. As a white, middle class heterosexual woman I was viewed as slightly alien; one who had accidentally slipped in under the equality radar.
On my first day, I spent so long with the Health and Safety people making sure my chair was the right height, my desk at the right level, footrest in the right place, screen the right distance that I wondered when I would get any work done. And then when I did, I discovered that my computer was programmed to shut down every half an hour to make sure I didn't get repetitive strain injury. Fat chance! At the time, the Beeb was getting rid of a lot of its staff and re-employing them on freelance contracts. The 'redundancy' pay they were giving to people who were walking out of the door one day as employees and walking back in the next, to the same job at the same desk, as a freelancer would make your eyes water. And at 4pm everybody, and I mean everybody, stopped to watch Countdown. Having come from a working in the private sector, where just about every one of my colleagues would most likely have been let go years before, I was shocked at the waste of time and money, taxpayers money. There was this certain arrogance that pervaded and still does pervade the BBC. But Television Centre at least had a certain charm about it.
Then someone had the bright idea of moving it, lock, stock and tax-payer funded barrel, up to Salford and the concept of Media City was born. The good people of Manchester rubbed their hands in glee at the thought of all the employment it would bring to an area that suffered over 400 incidences of crime each month. A vast, sprawling monolith was built that most people, according to my inside information, hate and that they had to literally bribe staff with hefty, tax-payer funded relocation packages. Some went, others took the equally hefty redundancy packages and yes, we paid for those too.
The idea behind the move was because the BBC wanted to it's views to be more representative of the country and less 'London-centric'. Apparently not enough people in the Northwest watched the BBC, apart from Corrie of course. And, whoop, whoop, they've grown their audience share and all for a lifetime cost of well over a billion pounds of taxpayers money. The 38% of staff they relocated cost us a cool £24 million in relocation packages and the redundancy packages for the 500 odd staff who opted not to move was another £26.2 million. This, apparently, represents value for money.
And as for investment in the local economy? Well apparently they only employed 34 'locals' which will make a huge difference to an area that has double the national average of unemployment. The rest came from London. Lucky old Manchester.
But for me, the real change has been the empty sofas, the 'and we are joined from our London studio by..' because, let's be honest, no captain of industry or opinion maker has the time to schlep all the way up to Manchester in their busy day to spend a few minutes sitting on the red sofa with a couple of presenters who have their bags packed ready to head back down to the South the nanosecond that the director says, 'it's a wrap'. Anyone can get on the sofa at the Beeb these days, and they do. It matters not a jot if they have anything even vaguely interesting to say.
The move has given us a chance to see what the average person on the street in the North West has to say. So far, I'm sorry folks, but it's been very little. The vox pops have been cringy and the BBC now resembles a regional news outfit rather than the flagship of British broadcasting. So I've turned it off. I don't watch BBC Breakfast any more. I never watched Corrie anyway so I certainly don't miss that. (Ed. and of course it's not even on the BBC anyway!)
And the idea of a northern production base doesn't seem to be working either because the truth of the matter is that the bulk of the film/tv talent is based in the South. Those that rushed with indecent haste up to Manchester to ride the tide of the new productions from the BBC are sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs and wondering if they will ever work again while new studios are opening up in Hampshire and Bristol, Pinewood is applying to extend and Shepperton is booked for years to come.
I'm all for the BBC reflecting national opinion but in my humble one it could have been achieved in other ways than by
So, Mr Humphreys. A world without the BBC? Yes please - and it may come sooner than you think.
|Look at all the Londoners!|