Memorandum by North West Vision
North West Vision was asked to prepare this
submission in preparation for the Select Committee visit to Manchester.
The paper covers the role of North West Vision, the current state
of the TV industry in the Northwest, the potential benefits of
the BBC's planned Move North and some of the issues that have
arisen surrounding the proposal.
North West Vision is the screen agency for England's
Northwest. Our job is to develop the TV, film and digital media
industries in the region.
We have four main areas of activity:
Investing in high growth companies
to increase production in the region, create jobs, grow capacity
and offer opportunities for all.
Investing in new talent, particularly
writers, directors and producers.
Attracting production to the region
and making it as easy as possible for companies to work here in
order to grow inward investment.
Developing new audiences, increasing
inclusiveness and access for previously under-represented groups.
We are funded by DCMS through the UK Film Council,
the local and city authorities, DTI, the North West Development
Agency and European Structural Funds and our annual budget is
£3 millionmost of which we invest.
We are industry-based and industry focused but
follow a public sector agenda aimed at developing the media industry.
Our Board and Staff have all worked within production or economic
development. Our Chairman, Steve Morrison, heads up the largest
independent TV production company in the UK.
We have a client-base of 3,000 programme and
filmmakers across the Northwest and work closely with all the
broadcasters, including the BBC.
We believe that our value to this committee
is that we straddle the private and public sector, production
and broadcasting, we are independent, we know the industry regionally,
nationally and internationally, and we have a national perspective
as well as a regional role.
TV INDUSTRY IN
The Northwest is the largest hub of TV production
outside London. According to OFCOM, 11 per cent of all new networked
programmes are made in the Northwest. This translates into £429
million worth of production and 1,310 hours of network television.
This strength is based on inhouse production
for the BBC and Granada (which has produced more programmes in
Manchester this year than ever before) and also some strong independent
production companies (indies). The crew and facilities base in
the region is comprehensive and highly experienced.
The Northwest is famous for its excellence in
drama (Cracker, Prime Suspect, Clocking Off, Queer as Folk, Blackpool,
Second Coming) and soaps (Coronation Street, Grange Hill, Brookside,
Hollyoaks). It is also home to some very popular animation (Bob
the Builder) and is growing a reputation with new markets in cable
and satellite for programmes like Most Hauntedwhich has
the biggest cable/satellite audience viewing figures in the UK.
The change in the terms of trade for independent
production companies and the increased regional quotas imposed
by OFCOM have created a climate of opportunity for Manchester
to attract larger companies to base here and indigenous companies
to grow. This has been given enormous impetus by the BBC Move
North. In addition, North West Vision has been able to invest
in 24 high growth TV companies this year, which will create an
increase in their turnover by an estimated £20 million.
THE BBC MOVE
. . . for the BBC
Innovation, change and opportunity
Manchester already has a solid production infrastructure
and a significant production base, which make it possible for
the BBC to move, and make it the natural choice for such a large
presence outside London. It wouldn't be possible to consider this
size of move without a pre-existing sustained sector.
Manchester is the gateway to the North. The
two other main production centres, Leeds and Liverpool are 45
minutes away so the BBC can easily access talent, crews and facilities
across a wide area.
Diverse communities, new talent, new voices
and the creativity of the North will mean even better programmes.
The BBC will win new audiencestraditionally
northern viewers have preferred ITV.
Manchester has the highest student density in
the UK which gives the BBC access to the brightest young graduates.
The move will offer the BBC the opportunity
to change, and to develop new working practices, increase openness
There are enormous partnership opportunities
for the BBC as both the public agencies in the Northwest and the
production businesses are firmly behind the move and willing to
do their utmost to make it happen.
. . . for Manchester/the North
Jobs, economic development and cultural representation
The creative/knowledge industries are a target
area for growth in Manchester and the Northwest as traditional
industries face challenges. The TV production sector leads on
this growth, as it produces sound economic benefit, high GVA,
and boosts other industries (design, music, advertising etc) through
its work. The BBC will be the "big beast" which will
actually create the market and conditions for the whole sector
to grow significantly.
Although Manchester's TV production sector is
strong, it is small compared to London and the move will provide
the impetus needed for a real expansion in the private sector.
We are predicting an increase in £20 million in the independent
production sector alone in 2006-07 in advance of the move.
The move will provide skilled jobs and career
opportunities to new graduates, and previously excluded communities.
It will help stop the brain drain to London and will make Manchester
a magnet for talent.
As more production is made here, the diverse,
and currently under-represented, communities of the North will
be given a face and a voice.
It is already working . . .
We have already begun to see the benefits of
the announced move to Manchester by the BBC and its push to encourage
production in the region ahead of this move. This year, we have
recorded an extraordinary 30 per cent rise in production through
Manchester, which is already the busiest production centre outside
London. This means a huge increase of spend into the economy and
within the sector.
This production benefit is being felt across
the Northwest with a 20 per cent rise in Liverpool and a 45 per
cent rise in Lancashire. In addition we have been able to attract
four major London companies to open Northern branch offices in
the city. We have also had two new local TV company start upsone
headed up by a member of the BME community the other by a woman
(both traditionally under-represented).
BBC drama and comedy have already located commissioning
staff in Manchester who now work the whole of the North to find
new writers, talent and programmes.
As of today (7 November) there are 10 major
new social dramas filming in the region using local talent, crew
and facilities and telling the stories of the country that we
live in. Jimmy McGovern's new series for the BBC, "The Street",
is now in preparation and is set to become a landmark for life,
today, in the UK.
. . . for the UK
addressing the north/south divide, community cohesion,
equality of opportunity
The Move North is just part of the BBC's programmes
to democratise its services and production. By creating a large
and vibrant centre outside London, the BBC starts to address the
over-investment in the south of England, with its attendant privileges
and drawbacks, and to bring more balance to its coverage of the
The Move North means a positive shift in focus
by the BBC, both in terms of working in partnership with the independent
companies, other broadcasters and with public agencies, this will
lead to a stronger national industry.
The issue of community cohesion and citizenship
needs to be addressed urgently, and so it is crucial to represent
Britain in all its diversity through its biggest broadcaster and
most popular media. This cannot be done from London alone.
The BBC will water down its commitment, saying
it's too expensive
This is the biggest fear of the sector who are
concerned that the BBC may just be using the proposals to move
as a pawn in its desire for a good licence fee agreement and that
it will renege on its proposals.
We would ask that the government make it a condition
of the licence fee settlement that the BBC carries out the moveto
the scale it has agreed.
The BBC will use the Olympics as an excuse not
to move Sport and 5Live
For the development of the sector and the North,
the important point is that the BBC moves both commissioning power/budget
and inhouse staff to Manchesterand to the scale it has
Lack of capacity in the Northwest
There is some concern that if 1,800 broadcast
jobs are moved by the BBC, and 900 need to be filled locally,
there will not be the ability to do that. North West Vision and
the rest of the public sector in the Northwest is now working
with the local industry, the BBC and the HE/FE sector to ensure
that skilled capacity continues to be built in the run up to 2010,
and that opportunities are extended across all communities.
Choice of site for the proposed new centre
There are a number of sites under consideration,
all of which have strong credentials for different reasons. The
Northwest Development Agency has already pledged a £50 million
investment into the development of a site which will bring together
the BBC, the independent TV companies and potentially other broadcasters/media
enterprises. The important thing is that the site is open to the
wider industry, is fit for purpose, and carries with it regeneration
The move only benefits Manchester
Manchester's central location means that the
proposed move actually works for a much wider constituency. Crew
and talent from across Yorkshire, the Midlands and into the Northeast
are within easy commuting distance. It takes the same time to
get from Leeds to Manchester as it does from Hampstead to Shepherd's
The BBC Move North will have a hugely beneficial
impact both economically and culturally on the North of England,
centred around Manchester. It will bring highly skilled jobs and
opportunities to the North and will stimulate the growth of a
vibrant and high-value sectorthe creative industries. In
addition it will benefit the BBC by opening up a new talent base,
production hub and opportunities for access and engagement.