BBC unveils 'biggest transformation in decades'

BBC unveils ‘biggest transformation in decades’: Director General Tim Davie announces shift away from London to ‘better reflect’ UK – with jobs moving north and Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today presented from outside capital

  • BBC will shift away from London over next 6 years in its dramatic overhaul
  • Move comes after broadcaster was accused of failing to understand Brexit vote 
  • 400 roles, around half of those in BBC News, will be relocated outside London

The BBC has unveiled a dramatic overhaul of the corporation in a bid to make it less London-centric.

The move will see the BBC shift away from London over the next six years in what it has called its ‘biggest transformation in decades’. 

Some 400 roles – around half of those in BBC News – will be relocated outside London. 

News and current affairs programmes such as Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today programme will be presented from different UK bases throughout the year. 

The overhaul – which BBC bosses hope will change the tone of its programmes and journalism – comes after the broadcaster was accused of failing to understand the vote for Brexit. 

Insiders last night predicted that many new roles would be created outside the capital even though its overall headcount will be cut, with hundreds of job losses announced. 

BBC Director-General Tim Davie did not address job losses in his statement today, but promised the plans will ‘develop and nurture new talent’ and would ‘create jobs and investment’.

The BBC has officially announced a dramatic overhaul of the corporation in a bid to make it less London-centric. Pictured: BBC Director-General Tim Davie 

The move will see the BBC shift away from London (its headquarters Broadcasting House, pictured) over the next six years in what it has called its ‘biggest transformation in decades’

What changes will the BBC implement in its ‘biggest transformation in decades’?

  • A new BBC One show will be created, tailoring specifically to viewers in the north west and the north east of England.
  • Funds will be invested in two major drama series, with one set in the north of England and another from Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
  • Radio 4’s Today programme will be co-presented from outside London for at least 100 episodes a year. PM will also be presented from across the UK.
  • Key daytime programmes on each of Radio 1, 1Xtra and Radio 2 will be made across the UK.
  • 50 per cent of network radio and music spend will be outside London by 2028. 
  • Newsbeat and Asian Network will be based in Birmingham.
  • Radio 3 and 6 Music will be ‘rooted in Salford’. 
  • Cardiff will become the new home of BBC News’s Climate and Science team – while the Technology team will move to Glasgow.
  • Towns and areas that had previously not had a regional TV presence will have new BBC reporters – with a total of 100 hired
  • More performances from the Proms will be broadcast outside London.

Viewers will see a ‘noticeable shift in portrayal of different parts of the UK in drama, comedy and factual’ shows, the broadcaster confirmed.  

Radio 4’s Today programme will be co-presented from outside London for at least 100 episodes a year.  PM will also be presented from across the UK.

A BBC statement said that ‘major parts of BBC News’ would ‘shift across the UK… ensuring we cover the stories that matter most to audiences and more effectively representing different voices and perspectives.’

The new plan is designed to result in editorial choices which are influenced by communities throughout the country.

The move comes after former-Today programme host John Humphrys said the BBC failed to understand the vote for Brexit.

And Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden claimed said ‘the BBC needs to be closer to, and understand the perspectives of, the whole of the United Kingdom and avoid providing a narrow urban outlook.’

Under the new plan, a ‘clear majority’ of the BBC’s ‘UK-wide TV will be made across the UK, not in London – at least 60 per cent of network TV commissions by spend.’

Key daytime programmes on each of Radio 1, 1Xtra and Radio 2 will be made across the UK and 50 per cent of network radio and music spend will be outside London by 2028.

More than 100 new and returning drama and comedy titles will reflect the lives and communities of audiences outside London over the next three years, the BBC added.

Funds will be invested in two major drama series, with one set in the north of England.

BBC One daytime show Morning Live will be broadcast year-round from Salford.

The BBC said the plans will ‘cement our commitment to better reflect, represent, and serve all parts of the country.’

Unveiling the new plans, BBC Director-General Mr Davie said: ‘Our mission must be to deliver for the whole of the UK and ensure every household gets value from the BBC.

‘These plans will get us closer to audiences, create jobs and investment, and develop and nurture new talent.

‘Over the last year, the BBC – which has been an essential part of the UK’s culture, democracy and creativity for almost a century – has helped inform, educate and entertain all four Nations, as we have collectively faced some of our toughest moments in recent history.

News and current affairs programmes such as Newsnight (pictured) and Radio 4’s Today programme will be presented from different UK bases throughout the year

Radio 4’s Today programme (pictured) will be co-presented from outside London for at least 100 episodes a year. PM will also be presented from across the UK

‘Now, as we look to the future, we must play our part in supporting social and economic recovery, rebuilding the creative sector and telling the stories that need to be heard from all corners of the UK.’

By 2028, the BBC will spend at least an extra £700 million cumulatively across the UK, it said.

In radio, Newsbeat and Asian Network will be based in Birmingham, while Radio 3 and 6 Music will be ‘rooted in Salford’.

More performances from the Proms – which sparked controversy last year over an initial decision to play Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory without lyrics – will be broadcast outside London. 

The BBC previously moved hundreds of staff and a number of services to Salford, affecting Children’s, Sport, and 5 Live.

The broadcaster said its property estate in London would be reduced.

The move comes after former-Today programme host John Humphrys (pictured) said the BBC failed to understand the vote for Brexit

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden claimed said ‘the BBC needs to be closer to, and understand the perspectives of, the whole of the United Kingdom and avoid providing a narrow urban outlook’

But BBC staff criticised the moves, which were then unconfirmed, saying people were ‘dreading’ the announcement after hundreds of job cuts were previously announced.

A senior BBC source said: ‘Tim says he is determined to get more diversity, including more class diversity with people from non-London and non-Oxbridge backgrounds. And I think he is pretty serious.

‘Although some people will simply sell their houses and move, a lot won’t and therefore there will be a lot of openings and opportunities for people to join outside London.’

Another said jobs being relocated to ‘other parts of the country’ felt like ‘more redundancies by the backdoor’.

They said: ‘It’s a de facto compulsory redundancy. Because people can’t up sticks and their whole lives necessarily. Everyone is so exhausted of the fighting.

‘I know that it is going to be a proper restructuring. It will really put the cat among the pigeons.’ 

Last September, Mr Davie said: ‘If we are going to get closer to our audience we need an organisation based more across the UK.’

Reacting to the changes announced today, trade union Bectu said the ‘devil will be in the detail’ in the BBC’s newly-unveiled plans for the future.

Its national secretary Noel McClean said: ‘One of the greatest benefits of public service broadcasting is the opportunity to tell the stories of all peoples across the nations and regions of the UK.

‘It is good to see the BBC wanting to build on its strong local offering and prioritise getting closer to communities across the nations and regions of the UK.

‘Our immediate concern is the impact on people, our members. As ever, the devil will be in the detail and Bectu will be going through the proposals with a fine tooth comb to ensure that workers are properly supported through these changes and that the need for redundancies is minimised.’ 

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