Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420
TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2005
Ms Helen France, Sir Howard Bernstein and Mr John
You have persuaded The Guardian to move back?
Sir Howard Bernstein: We are talking
Right. Salford, John Willis?
Mr Willis: Chairman, I would just like to add
my comments to Howard's. My emphasis and Howard's and Helen's
is very much around transformational change here. We talk a lot
about transformational change but this is one of those real opportunities
in Greater Manchester. We have already seen a huge transformation
in Manchester in the city centre, as Howard talked about, and
this is an opportunity to further develop that transformation.
It is also a transformational opportunity for the BBC and also
for broadcasting in general. We have got a chance here to future-proof
broadcasting in this country and maintain its status on a world
stage. There is, as we all know, huge competition. Dubai and Seoul
have got their media cities and I think we have got to be thinking
at that level, and this presents that sort of opportunity. We
are hoping between us as a partnership to be able to provide the
BBC and the broadcasting world in general with that opportunity.
We have now to be thinking about the next 10, 20 or 30 years and
future-proofing is one of the key features.
And Manchester and Salford are working hand-in-hand?
Mr Willis: We work together on so many issues.
To be honest, very few people know where the exact boundary is
between Manchester and Salford.
We had it pointed out to us this morning so we know one bit of
Mr Willis: We are working together on housing
regeneration along the River Irwell and the two cities coincide
at the heart of the conurbation. We want what is best for Greater
Manchester and for the North West and we will work to achieve
Sir Howard Bernstein: It is not just Manchester
and Salford. One of the clearly defined factors which effectuate
this city region and others is the extent to which there are shared
objectives around economic performance and social inclusion county-wide
and how subregional structures integrate in the active pursuit
of those shared objectives. That is something which we have worked
very, very hard on over many years to get right.
As I understand what the BBC are saying, it is not just the North
West; in a sense it is a hub which will take in Leeds, Newcastle,
and places like that.
Sir Howard Bernstein: Yes.
Ms France: Can I respond to that, Chairman.
As an RDA we are working very closely with the other two northern
RDAs, particularly on the back of the Northern Way activity. There
has been a small number of transformational activities that have
been identified as really making a huge impact, outside of the
geography of any of the individual regions, and the BBC move is
one of those. We are working particularly closely with other RDAs
and their partners to ensure that any benefits we get from this
relocation spin out to hubs elsewhere such as Newcastle. The BBC
has been very helpful and constructive in helping us do that.
They support that in the North East.
Ms France: Totally. It has been seen very much
as a key priority of the Northern Way and the coming together
of the three regions.
Q426 Bishop of Manchester:
I am of course a symbol of unity because as Bishop of Manchester
I live in Salford! You talked certainly in the Manchester evidencebut
I am sure that Salford is in on this as wellabout the kind
of specific proposals that need to be made with the BBC about
the move up here to Manchester or to Salford. I wonder if you
could just expand a bit now on in a sense what is on the table
from your point of view in order to be able to make the local
partnership with the BBC work?
Sir Howard Bernstein: When colleagues
from the BBC started to engage with us some 12 months ago was
a shared understanding at the outset was that we ought not just
to be talking about a relocation of the BBC's operations to this
part of the world. What we were all very clear about, having regard
to the clear and defined BBC values, which were communicated in
the recommendations about how you drive creative industries, how
you support competition with the independents and how you secure
greater public access, was that what we needed to do was to create
something, as John has described, as being very, very special.
So the concept of the Media Enterprise Zone emerged jointly in
discussion with the BBC which would have a number of very discrete
components: obviously purpose-built offices to enable the administrative
and supporting infrastructure to be accommodated; but also the
concept of shared technical facilities, involving the BBC and
other broadcasters and users which would give the opportunity
for sharing overheads; creating a platform to develop content
and a whole range of different programmes; developing the opportunity
to involve independent producers and, more specifically, the opportunity
to innovate, which all of us accept is going to be a fundamental
part of the growth of the media industry in the future. Another
component of the Media Enterprise Zone would be flexible space
which would provide a whole range of business support services
including incubation, which is so important to small to medium-sized
businesses who are wishing to develop and flourish in that sector.
It would include a research centre which would provide the opportunity
to make critical connections between technology and innovation
and involve some of our world-class universities in this part
of the world. Critically there are public access arrangements.
The BBC have made it very, very clear that as part of their overall
move to develop a comprehensive plan they wanted to examine different
ways of engaging communities in programme content development.
Our own strategies around community engagement and the whole question
of the diversity of communities in this part of the world give
us real opportunities to look at public access in a very sophisticated
way. It would also allow us to do something which is very dear
to all of our hearts in the public sector, which is to involve
the cultural and media sector in the way in which we provide education
in this country. That is something where at different stages of
young people's development, there is the opportunity to excite
and help innovate and promote a interest in media. All of these
different components represent what we would describe as the Media
Enterprise Zone and represent the justification for different
levels of public funding support being provided.
Q427 Bishop of Manchester:
Those are the ideas; what are you as councils proposing to put
into those ideas in practical cash terms?
Sir Howard Bernstein: There is a general envelope
of public funding which between us we identified as of the order
of £50 million. As a council we are putting a significant
contribution into that. The sorts of things that we would be looking
at are support in the acquisition of land; funding support in
helping to create the facilities; funding support to enable us
to create the pathways in terms of skills development, people
development and the making of connections with our wider public
services such as education; but fundamentally to create the spatial
focus around where the Media Enterprise Zone should go, and how
we underpin skills and other types of development.
Q428 Bishop of Manchester:
Does John agree with that?
Mr Willis: We operate on a very similar philosophy
here. Everything that Howard has explained is something that is
common right across the board in what we are trying to achieve
here. I would just add that one of the important aspects concerns
our universities. We have got between Manchester and Salford the
largest campus in Europe and there is a huge talent there, and
too many of our graduates leave the region. One of the benefits
to us is the retention of high-calibre people who can lead and
create and who can in turn help create jobs and wealth for the
Q429 Lord Maxton:
Could I just ask about that because obviously the economic impact
will be much wider than just Manchester and Salford, although
that is where you are involved. Are there discussions with other
local authorities not just in the Lancashire area but also right
through the whole North West because it will impact presumably
in terms of the people living there, smaller companies working
in other local authority areas? Having seen what they have done
in Ireland in terms of offering location facilities for companies
to come and film outside broadcasts, and so on, you are having
Ms France: Can I take up Lord Maxton's point.
You are right, there are issues that go much wider than Manchester
and Salford and there will be impacts as a result of this move
that do go much broader and much wider than the supply issues,
such as how we link into the supply chain and how we link into
the higher education and further education facilities, and they
will go wider than Manchester and Salford. For example, the University
of Salford specialises particularly in media-related activities.
We are already starting to have discussions with them about how
we can utilise their facilities and how they can ensure that they
are positioned to be able to provide the high-quality graduates
that will be required for this. It is probably fair to say that
our discussions with partners outside Manchester and Salford are
at very early stages because we have been looking at the generic
impact that can be of benefit as a result of the move and we have
also been looking at very specific, site-related issues. We are
now at the stage of going much broader into the Northern Way partners,
as I have already mentioned, and also wider partners across the
North West. We are very mindful of the need to do it and we have
started to do it. We have still got some progress to make on that,
but it is definitely a priority for us to do that.
Q430 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
One of the NWDA requirements was the presence of thriving clusters
of businesses with networks to support them. You have gone a little
way along there but are you really convinced that the North West
really has got developed clusters already which would effectively
support the BBC move to Manchester? Are you pretty certain that
it is there already, although you can obviously build on it?
Ms France: As part of our regional economic
strategy we have identified a range of clusters that will help
us to generate this transformational change for the North West.
It includes the creative industries and we are prioritising that
within our new regional economic strategy and specifically referring
to the role of the BBC in terms of that clustering of creative
and cultural activity. I agree with you that it does go broader
than that and the supply chain and education does go much broader
than the direct creative industries. There are links into the
legal services and financial services and other clusters that
we are developing. We are confident that we have sufficient economic
activity in the region to be able to support it as it stands now.
We are also very mindful of the fact that we want to ensure that
we are positioned properly for the transformational activity that
will result from this. So we are working very hard with existing
clusters to strengthen and develop them and also looking at what
other work is needed on the back of it.
Sir Howard Bernstein: Just to add to that, if
I may. I think it is all about the development of critical mass
and what we are already seeing within the North of England regional
economy is very, very clear development in the creative industries,
lots of activity which is increasing all the time. What this will
enable us to do is make that step change and by synergising activities
in the way I described earlier and by creating critical mass with
the necessary public funding support and the pathways which are
described, you get the critical point which then starts to drive
change in a much wider way. The parallel I would draw is Manchester
Airport. Manchester Airport, which was a major city asset 20 years
ago, has now reached the threshold of international significance
and it is now driving transformational change throughout the North
Mr Willis: The building blocks are already there.
There are something like 63,000 people already employed in creative
industries in Manchester so that is a substantial base from which
to start. Something like 11 per cent of all new network programmes
come out of the North West. That is growing at a rate of about
4 per cent a year. There is real impetus already there and, this
is, as Howard says, about step change.
Q431 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
I worked here in the mid-1970s and I have seen huge changes and
all of that would illustrate it, but looking to the BBC itself,
what measures can they take to ensure that the existing businesses
do have every opportunity to compete for support services contracts?
Is there anything that you feel particularly the BBC itself needs
Mr Willis: I think it is really important that
the BBC links in with the local authorities and links in with
Manchester Enterprises and our economic drivers to ensure that
those connections are made. Part of the bargain has to be that
the BBC can source materialcompetitive, imaginative, creative
materialand will look to this area as being part of their
Sir Howard Bernstein: Can I just add one point
to that. I think it is very, very important again (and I think
it is foreshadowed in the papers which the BBC have produced)
that in order to be able to secure the level of competition which
is important and to be able to support the growth and development
of the independent sector, we need a dynamic and healthy BBC being
relocated to Manchester. I think that is a fundamental part of
the total process.
Q432 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Do you feel the will is there on the part of the BBC?
Sir Howard Bernstein: I think the values which
have been communicated in all the documents and in all the conversations
we have had have been very, very strong and very, very exciting.
Q433 Lord Maxton:
What would be the impact if it did not come?
Sir Howard Bernstein: It would be, in my view,
a major lost opportunity not just in the context of national competitiveness
strategies and Government targets around PSA2, the narrowing of
regional economic differences between London and the rest of the
country. There would be a huge question mark over the achievement
of those strategies. I also think it would be a major lost opportunity
in terms of how we can collectively shape the future of broadcasting
and media-related activity in this country over the next 10 years.
Q434 Lord Maxton:
You have talked about the creative side and quite rightly so.
I represented the City of Glasgow which also, in a sense, has
regenerated itself through the creative arts, but in broadcasting
media we now talk increasingly about convergence and that includes
the development of broadband and whether we have the computer
skills both in terms of the hardware and software, that will be
required as part of the support structure? What are you doing
to both roll out more broadband and also connect it to remoter
areas and also in terms of developing the computer skills that
will be required?
Ms France: I accept totally the importance of
broadband. If we are really going to have a sustainable economy
in the North West we need broadband. The North West Development
Agency has really focused on this and we have ensured that broadband
access is available in even the most remote places. Ninety-eight
per cent of Cumbria can now access high-quality broadband activity,
which we firmly believe will enable strong business growth and
entrepreneurial activity and drive businesses in areas which previously
were unsustainable because they had no access to make the inward
investment and export activity. We have already started to make
that move and get that transition to make sure we are a fully
functioning region that can take exactly the opportunities you
have mentioned in terms of moving to convergence and exploiting
the innovative activity that will hopefully arise as a result
of the BBC move.
Q435 Lord Maxton:
You have not tried to attract Microsoft into the area?
Ms France: We are. Sir Howard Bernstein:
We are talking to them.
Chairman: You are doing a lot of talking,
are you not? Hopefully it will deliver one day.
Q436 Lord Maxton:
On that point, do you think the BBC proposal to come here is more
likely to attract companies like Microsoft?
Sir Howard Bernstein: Undoubtedly.
Mr Willis: Absolutely.
Q437 Lord Maxton:
Ms France: Yes.
To turn to another aspect, do I detect a certain uncertainty or
at least not total certainty that the BBC are actually going to
come to Manchester?
Ms France: We are working on the assumption
that they are coming to Manchester. That is the premise on which
we are working and that is what we are here to deliver.
That is what you are expecting to happen?
Ms France: Yes.