Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460
TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER 2005
Ms Helen France, Sir Howard Bernstein and Mr John
Q460 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Just one final question for Sir Howard. You explained very eloquently
what the Media Enterprise Zone would provide for the BBC. In our
last report we recommended that the BBC should develop shared
centres of regional opportunity. Have you got evidence that the
BBC is willing to allow local companies to share its resources?
Sir Howard Bernstein: Yes, the whole concept
of the Media Enterprise Zone is founded on those shared values
and at all stages of this process the BBC have been open and highly
co-operative in driving that ethos forward.
Q461 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
Do you see the BBC and Granada, for instance, sharing?
Sir Howard Bernstein: I think from our side
there is that presumptionalthough the precise form we need
to work throughand it seems inconceivable to me that you
can have a Media Enterprise Zone here in the Northwest that excludes
Q462 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
And the BBC seem happy about that?
Sir Howard Bernstein: In principle, yes.
Q463 Lord Maxton:
Does it include community involvement?
Sir Howard Bernstein: Absolutely, the whole
point about the concept is public access and the public ethos.
And is the BBC likely to gain from the Media Enterprise Zone?
I can see other people will gain from it. Is the BBC going to
gain? How is the BBC going to benefit?
Sir Howard Bernstein: Efficiencies and the ability
to engage and drive the creative agenda which it sets itself,
the agenda for public access and community engagement; the way
in which its programme content is more accurately reflective of
the North of England. All of those are very, very clear outcomes.
Mr Willis: I would add to that flexibility and
future-proofing, to give the BBC that future-proofing that it
You see the future as far as Manchester is concerned, as far as
the North is concerned very much in terms of partnership, at least
production partnership between the BBC and ITV Granada?
Sir Howard Bernstein: They would be at one.
If you asked the BBC, they would attach, rightly so in my view,
as much importance to partnership with technological providers
having regard to the future dynamics of industry.
The situation is now that since the Communications Act that ITV
could be bought by a foreign company. That would be a disaster,
would it not, if that foreign company decided that the best way
of delivering its production was to deliver (as Walt Disney delivers)
its own production and not bother very much about local production?
Sir Howard Bernstein: Yes inevitably, but again
creating that diverse competitive bloc supports our own objectives
as well as others.
Q467 Lord Maxton:
Just on that point I raised when you were saying you were talking
to Microsoft, because this is always one of problems with this;
would that be a new investment for Microsoft or would it be a
relocation from somewhere else?
Sir Howard Bernstein: We are not that far into
the detail. We are meeting them on Friday.
Q468 Lord Maxton:
Presumably, if it is new investment in an area and if the BBC
did not come here, they would not come here but they would not
necessarily be locating somewhere else in the United Kingdom,
they might very well be locating anywhere around the world?
Sir Howard Bernstein: Exactly.
Q469 Lord Peston:
Can I go back to one other aspect of this which is sport. As I
originally understood what was supposed to happen with relocation,
sport was to be part of it?
Sir Howard Bernstein: Yes.
Q470 Lord Peston:
We are talking now about the organisation of the broadcasting
of sport, we are not going to insist that everything is played
Sir Howard Bernstein: Pity!
Q471 Lord Peston:
I cannot see any comparative advantage at all in sport being located
in London for example. Are you assuming therefore that sport really
will come here and will become, as it were, the centre starting
with the BBC but then perhaps others as well?
Mr Willis: We stress thatand I think
Helen said at the beginningthat our worst fear is that
we get little bits. We need that massing and sport is an essential,
key component then of that.
Q472 Lord Peston:
From your side of how you do it, what is your contribution in
facilitating that happening? I can see the desirability and I
had assumed, to go back to my original economics question, there
should be very considerable cost savings in having the thing located
up here rather than of all places London. What do you do to facilitate
or condition the contribution that you can specifically make?
Mr Willis: That will be wrapped up in the package
that the RDA and specific councils are putting together here.
Q473 Lord Peston:
That will become more specific the closer we get to the thing?
Mr Willis: Yes.
Q474 Lord Peston:
Are you optimistic about it happening?
Mr Willis: Yes. We are not sure the BBC is going
to pay us to come up here but we are working on it.
Lord Peston: Thank you for that.
Chairman: Any other questions from anyone?
Q475 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Can I ask one so that I am quite clear. The impression I got was
that if the BBC do come here that that will reduce quite considerably
the likelihood of ITV being a target for takeover that could not
be resisted, as it were. Are you saying that?
Sir Howard Bernstein: No, I could not say that.
What I was trying to say is that at the present time having regard
to existing activities within this part of the world there is
a presumption in favour of ITV's participation within the Media
Enterprise Zone. None of us would say there is not likely to be
the potential for very significant structural changes which ITV,
or for that matter the industry itself, will go through over the
next five to 10 years. My point is that synergies created through
the Media Enterprise Zone will deliver better competition, and
being inter-dependent will allow for the impact of any hostile
takeovers in the way that was put to me to be mitigated.
Q476 Baroness Howe of Idlicote:
Is that the view of everyone?
Mr Willis: We all share the attitude that we
all want to take advantage of the opportunity there is.
And hope for the best?
Mr Willis: No, plan for the best.
Q478 Bishop of Manchester:
When the move up here was mooted at the beginning, the BBC Ariel
magazine found it necessary to invite someone from the BBC here
to persuade people in the South that Manchester or Salford was
not quite so bad as they might think. Have you any evidence in
the negotiations that you have been having since those initial
days that there is still among people in London a really quite
serious desire not to come up North?
Ms France: I will start on that one. I think
we were mindful of that response as well we have worked hard with
the BBC provide information and understanding of the reality of
the North West, not just Manchester. We have focused on education
provision, housing provision, the ability of partners to get jobs,
the quality of life, environmental issues and so on. We have had
to counter that misconception and provide hard facts. That has
been successful. We will continue to do that as we go through
the process because it is about countering prejudice.
Mr Willis: We have to understand that change
is never easy for people anyway and there will be a number of
people who for valid personal reasons will find it difficult to
relocate. I guess the BBC will have to accept that. But what we
can put to bed is this fear or myth about the North and actually
just talk about some of the fantastic achievements in Greater
Manchester, the North West and what a great environment we have
got up here. Some people might have personal reasons why a relocation
is not appropriate; others will be more flexible.
This is not just a media issue, you have this issue with anyone
and any company that relocates here?
Mr Willis: Absolutely.
Sir Howard Bernstein: That is one of the big
challenges we had to confront with the Bank of New York which
relocated out of London, and the sort of processes which Helen
has rightly described are ones we undertook ourselves and that
has proved to be very, very successful. The Manager of the Bank
of New York branch up here does not want to go back.
Chairman: I represented a Birmingham constituency
for 27 years. Outside London we all have these problems, do we
not? Newcastle, Leeds, everyone does, even Scotland has it.