Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The dream is over

I edit a magazine called Insider, or to give it its full name North West Business Insider.

You can link to it and to my company on the link opposite, but this post is my leader column from the July issue, dealing with the BBC's potential move to Manchester.

The dream is over

A fit of pique from an over exuberant member of the team and the writing was on the wall. Once again a bitter defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory. Let the recriminations begin.
Unfortunately, no-one from Ask Developments or Manchester City Council will be sticking one on Cristiano Ronaldo, but there will be inquests and tears about how the City Council lost out on the chance to develop a new hub for the BBC in the city centre and what that lost opportunity may cost the city in the future.

This magazine desperately wishes it wasn’t so, but we have consistently said that the discussion around the BBC’s move to Manchester has been a case of over optimism, false promises and distorted perspectives.

To start with there should be and there probably will be a new home for the corporation. New Broadcasting House on Oxford Road is tired and in need of urgent refurbishment or the BBC should start again. If that is to be in Salford Quays, then fair enough, that’s the choice of the BBC themselves and the determination of the local authority over there and the developer to make the relocation a reality.

But hopes that hundreds of businesses will cluster around the BBC, wherever it is based is a nonsense. The centre of the British independent production and facilities industry is in Soho, central London. The BBC commissioners, for the most part, are located in a white elephant of a building called White City about six miles to the west and twelve stops on the central line.
Put that scenario in Manchester and the chances are new media companies and television producers will still want to be where the action is; the city centre, with or without a big building at Salford Quays.

Secondly, there are honest, good people working to bring more broadcasting output, ore channels and more jobs to the north of England. They include people like Martin Brooks and John Ryan, the head of BBC Radio Manchester. The North West deserves BBC 2, Radio Five Live, sport, children’s TV and a whole lot more. Because of internal resistance and because the BBC is terrible at delivering large scale projects, this will be watered down. The budget for the move has already been cut and the talk inside the BBC now is not “when” but “if” the move happens.

And finally, we’ve said this all along. It would be nice if the BBC came, but compared to everything else that’s going on, the economic benefits are bigger elsewhere. Let’s get some real work done.

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