MediaCity Pano Sep 2017
Peel Group's Salford Quays development was picked as the BBC's UK HQ in 2006

MediaCityUK braces for BBC expansion

Sarah Townsend

The broadcaster leases around 330,000 sq ft at the Salford Quays mixed-use development and must now make room for additional staff to be relocated from London under its strategy to “get closer to audiences”.

The BBC on Thursday announced that it will move some of its key departments and staff to locations outside the capital over the next six years to “better reflect, represent, and serve all parts of the country”, the corporation said.

The strategy is set out in a blueprint for the future entitled The BBC across the UK. Under the plans, the whole of the Radio 3 and 6 Music departments will be based at the Salford Quays headquarters, and Salford will also be the main base for the BBC’s digital and technology teams.

The BBC is to launch a new soap set in the North of England to rival Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and a BBC ‘learning hub’ to train up young people is to be set up in Liverpool.

Meanwhile, “significant” parts of BBC News staff will shift to other centres across the UK; BBC Studios bases in Bristol, Cardiff and Glasgow will be expanded; the corporation’s Northern Ireland headquarters in Belfast will be upgraded, while radio programmes Newsbeat and Asian Network will be based in Birmingham.

The blueprint contains a host of other proposals intended to ensure that at least 60% – a “clear majority” – of the BBC’s UK-wide network TV commissions by spend are made across the UK, not in London, together with at least 50% of network radio and music spend, by 2027/28.

The BBC decided to set up its UK headquarters in Greater Manchester in 2006 and relocated jobs to its new Salford Quays base between 2011 and 2012. Its current lease holdings at MediaCityUK, owned by the Peel Group, include 154,000 sq ft at Quay House, 100,000 sq ft at Bridge House and 80,000 sq ft at Dock House – a total of 334,000 sq ft.

Stephen Wild, managing director of MediaCityUK, told Place North West in a statement: “This [week’s] announcement is really exciting for MediaCityUK and Salford as a whole. It means we can continue to attract and retain talent in the North, as well as many more fantastic opportunities for our burgeoning creative, digital and tech sector.”

He added: “Everything we do at MediaCityUK has a partnership approach and the BBC is fundamental to this.

“The BBC was our first partner on site, it has had a huge part to play in our history and it will continue to be a big influence on our future, making MediaCityUK a place where creative communities thrive.”

Ahead of its move to Salford Quays almost a decade ago, the BBC and landowner Peel claimed that the development would create up to 10,000 jobs and add £1bn to the regional economy over the five years after the relocation completed. However, a report by think tank Centre for Cities in 2017 stated that less than one-third of the predicted jobs had actually been created.

According to its blueprint this week, the BBC will spend at least an extra £700m cumulatively across the UK by 2027/28, generating an additional economic benefit for the country of more than £850m. “This will not only dramatically increase opportunities for jobs and training, but improve representation on and off screen,” it said.

The BBC director-general Tim Davie added: “Our mission must be to deliver for the whole of the UK and ensure that every household gets value from the BBC. These plans will get us closer to audiences, create jobs and investment, and develop and nurture new talent.

“As we look to the future, we must play our part in supporting social and economic recovery, rebuilding the creative sector and telling the stories that need to be heard from all corners of the UK.”

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Northwestism is alive and kicking.

By Michael McDonut

Great news; the BBC is waking up to a hub of creativity and culture: Manchester and Salford.

By Chris Green

More Tech jobs for the region, brilliant news! I’m hearing the national cyber force is also to be located in GM. Really is unbelievable how far we have come. Truly a global Tech City now.

By Bob