98. There is one further long-standing issue
that the Committee has taken a keen interest in this year; namely,
the progress of the BBC's relocation to Salford Quays. The BBC
is on schedule to open its new purpose built broadcast centre
Media City in Salford Quays in May 2011, and it
is expected to be fully operational by December 2011. In 2007
it was confirmed that the BBC would be moving five of its departments
to the development in Media City: BBC Children's; BBC Learning;
BBC Sport; Radio Five Live; and parts of BBC Future Media and
Technology. In July 2010, it was announced that the BBC Breakfast
programme would also move to Salford Quays.
99. As part of our annual inquiry we paid a visit
to Media City, Salford Quays, in November 2010. We were immensely
impressed by the facilities and by the creative, employment and
commercial opportunities. It is disappointing that the potential
of this new development has been somewhat overshadowed by concerns,
extensively covered in the media, that BBC staff and talent were
reluctant to relocate, despite a generous relocation package.
A particular criticism was that the BBC management was not showing
sufficient leadership, with a number of key senior managers not
themselves planning to relocate. For example, Paul Gaskin, BBC's
Human Resources Director for Salford HQ, quit at the end of July
2010 because he did not want to relocate, while the director of
BBC North, Peter Salmon, his deputy, Richard Deverell and BBC
Live controller Adrian Van Klaveren, were all reported in the
media as planning to rent property in Manchester while their families
remained in the south.
Peter Salmon responded to media criticism by stating that he would
be buying a family home in Salford as soon as his children "finish
this round of their education".
Moreover, it has been reported that the "Migration Manager"
in charge of the relocation of BBC staff from London to Salford,
Guy Bradshaw, has been US-based and commuted from his home in
Kentucky in order to fulfil his duties at considerable expense
to the BBC. At
the Edinburgh TV festival in August 2010, producer Jimmy Mulville
was quoted as accusing BBC senior management of "leading
from the back".
100. In our first oral evidence session, we
asked Mark Thompson if he was confident that a sufficient number
of executives and talent would be prepared to relocate to make
a success of the new development. He responded that he was, observing
that both the Director of BBC North and his number two had now
made it clear that they too would be relocating. He noted too
that quite a few of the rest of the management team already live
in the north, and that many others would be relocating.
He went further to claim that, within the relocating departments:
] the percentage of staff in those departments
who have chosen to move to the north, 46%, is much, much higher
than most organisations, public or private, achieve in relocation.
And to conclude that:
] I think we are going to end up with a pretty
much optimal mix in Salford of a significant number of people
] who are moving [
] but also plenty of opportunity
to create jobs to get new people who are already based in the
whole of the north of England to come and work with us in Salford.
101. During our second oral evidence session,
subsequent to our trip to Salford Quay, we noted that there was
still a lot of space available there and asked whether the BBC
had any plans to move further services to the north-west. Mark
Thompson replied that past precedent had certainly been to add
rather than subtract services for relocation. He told us that
he would not rule out further moves once the new centre was up
and running. We pressed further as to whether the BBC would consider
moving one of its two main terrestrial channels to Salford, something
which would send a strong signal that the BBC had left any London-centric
prejudice long behind. Mark Thompson replied that there were no
immediate plans to do this but that "like anything else,
I would not rule that out".
102. We believe that the new
development at Salford Quays sends a powerful signal of the BBC's
intention to look beyond London for its production base. We assess
that the early indications are that it should also deliver the
creative and employment benefits which were hoped for, if not
the immediate financial ones. Having made the commitment, we would
expect the BBC to keep under review the scope for transferring
further production to its new home in the North West where there
are clear benefits from doing so.
103. It is inevitable that a
major project such as the development at Salford Quays will attract
media attention, not least regarding staff relocation, and attention
from the newspapers, which tend to be critical of the BBC. Senior
management would be well aware of this. To employ a "migration
manager", therefore, who commuted from his US home, simply
opened the BBC up to self-inflicted and predictable ridicule.
Such decisions cannot simply be dismissed as inconsequential gaffes.
They lower the esteem of the BBC, its senior management and the
Trust in the eyes of the public and its own staff. It is a task
for the incoming Chairman to ensure that the BBC is seen always
to lead by example in the future.
113 See for example The Guardian, BBC Salford HR
director quits, 23 August 2010 Back
The Guardian, BBC North chief vows to buy family home in Salford,
27 August 2010 Back
The Daily Mail, BBC 'migration' boss leading move to Manchester
travels 4,000 miles to work (and avoids paying any UK income tax),
6 February 2011 Back
The Guardian, Jimmy Mulville: Peter Salmon 'leading from the
back' on BBC Salford move, 27 August 2010 Back