Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 415 - 419)


Ms Helen France, Sir Howard Bernstein and Mr John Willis

  Q415  Chairman: Thank you very much for coming. I will not ask you to introduce yourselves because we know from previous meetings who you are. Let me just say this about the Committee: we have already made one substantial report on the future of the BBC, but we were conscious of the fact that there were a number of areas which we did not have time, given the time constraints that were placed upon us, to do justice to, so we are looking in detail at a number of other areas, one of which is of course, if I can put it this way, regional broadcasting or, to put it another way, how much broadcasting should take place outside London, and obviously Manchester is the crucial place to come to at this moment. We have heard a lot about the move to Manchester. Perhaps from your different points of view, from the North West Development Agency and from both Manchester and Salford City Councils, you could just begin by saying what you see as the advantages of this move and whether there are any disadvantages to it. Helen France, would you like to start?

  Ms France: Yes, I am very happy to start with that. From our perspective, one of the reasons that we have been so heavily engaged with the BBC's proposed relocation is primarily due to the economic benefits of the move it will bring. We have already done a lot of work. As you know, our main remit is around providing the sustainable economic development of the region and we see the BBC move as being a significant catalyst to helping us to do that. We believe the move will generate significant economic, social and cultural advantages to the North West. We have commissioned, in conjunction with Manchester City Council, a piece of work about the economic impacts of the move. That has already shown us, at a very early stage the significant economic benefits that we can get. We can share that report with you so you can read the details rather than me going through all of the figures now. We also believe that it will enable us, as a region, to really develop a very strong cluster around media—new media and traditional television broadcasting. That the BBC's move will provide a real impetus for a substantial growth of the production facilities. This is very, very important for us and a key driver for the North West economy. In terms of the disadvantages, I think obviously it is very important for us that the scale of the BBC move is as currently projected. We think that if it is scaled down then it will not have the same catalystic benefit to the region. We also need to ensure that we have got a genuinely economic and viable set of proposals. Again, that is a potential disadvantage if we do not get that right. We can come on to that later, if that is helpful.

  Q416  Chairman: Thank you. Sir Howard?

  Sir Howard Bernstein: I think the starting point for us is what sort of city we want to create, particularly in the context of a new drive in national economic competitiveness. I think the vocabulary of all parties over the past few years has been the significance of city regions in trying to drive the national economic capacity of the UK. In that context, over the last few years what we have seen is a much greater focus particularly on places like Manchester in a wider sense, not just the City of Manchester, in focusing around those key value-added economic sectors which are capable not only of achieving transformational change but also at the same time improving national competitiveness. That is borne out also by the view that while London is fundamentally important it cannot be the only engine of national economic achievement. Cultural and media-related industries have long been established as a key growth in Manchester City region. We already account for nine per cent of the UK's audiovisual workforce, the largest workforce outside London and the South East. We already have Granada ITV in place within the region, a very significant player responsible for generating something like 4,500 jobs. We have the partnerships in place within the region. Media Training North West has helped to drive talent and technological and cultural innovation. We have world-class universities to deliver the graduates who are going to be so important to be able to access what we all describe as higher value jobs. We also think Manchester is best placed to meet the clear objectives of the BBC about how it positions itself as an organisation over the next 10 years.

  Q417  Chairman: Have you any sort of estimate on the number—and it is envisaged that 1,000 BBC jobs might come—of other jobs that will be created?

  Sir Howard Bernstein: The economic analysis which Helen referred to, which as we said we can present to you, shows something like 4,500 jobs being generated, both directly and indirectly, within the wider region as a result of the BBC relocation and clustering activity which we are determined to gather around it, and something like 20 per cent of that total will be captured immediately outside the city region. This underpins the wider benefit to be captured in the Northwest as a result of our strategy.

  Q418  Chairman: Is there anything on that scale that has been done in Manchester in recent years?

  Sir Howard Bernstein: Yes, thankfully. The wider Manchester City region is synonymous with achievement over the last five years, whereas 20 years ago it was associated with under-achievement. The regeneration of the city centre has levered in something like £4 billion of public and private investment and something like 45,000 jobs have been created within the city region over the last five years. And, indeed, we have set ourselves the target over the next 10 years to significantly increase our GVA (gross value added) and the BBC relocation itself will account for something like 10 per cent of that growth target over the next 10 years.

  Q419  Chairman: But media is a crucial element of this?

  Sir Howard Bernstein: Media is one of the six or seven high-value sectors which differentiate, in our view, the Manchester City region not only from other city regions in the country but also other competitors throughout Continental Europe.

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