BBC Licence Fee Settlement and Annual Report - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

7  Salford Quays

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.[113] 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".[114] 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.[115] At the Edinburgh TV festival in August 2010, producer Jimmy Mulville was quoted as accusing BBC senior management of "leading from the back".[116]

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.[117] 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.[118]

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.[119]

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".[120]

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

114   The Guardian, BBC North chief vows to buy family home in Salford, 27 August 2010 Back

115   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

116   The Guardian, Jimmy Mulville: Peter Salmon 'leading from the back' on BBC Salford move, 27 August 2010 Back

117   Q59 Back

118   Q59 Back

119   Q59 Back

120   Q172 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 19 May 2011