Sunday, June 26, 2011

MediaCity is important, but not for regeneration

I'm very excited about MediaCity and will be seeing it for myself this week. In the meantime, there's been some rum comment here about the regenerative powers of the BBC's relocation.

On its own the BBC move won't solve inequality and deprivation in Salford. To suggest that is the purpose is to miss the point. But if the BBC has to tax each and every household in the UK for its services – not just BBC1 and BBC2, but effectively for all of it – then it is unsustainable for those services to be so metropolitan in tone, voice and location. The resettlement of a large chunk of a national corporation to the North West is not only a good thing, it is essential for a functioning national plural democracy.

To then have a private company, Peel, build the thing and to invest in the rest of the infrastructure around it – with a subsidy, just like the Dome, just like the Olympics, just like the Thames Gateway, just like the new BBC radio studio central London – is an incredible piece of good fortune.

The refuseniks who don’t want to come to live in Hale and Didsbury now are an aberration. The real story lies with the people who have a chance to work with the BBC for the next 20 years – my kids, their mates and even the sons and daughters of Nicky Campbell and others who are coming. It is the BBC after all.

Having accepted all of the above, the BBC then sought a suitable site. Salford Quays was their most cost effective solution as the landowner was prepared to build it (by unlocking subsidy, granted). Manchester’s alternative – Southern Gateway – was more costly and didn’t have the potential to attract other inward investors.

MediaCity at Salford Quays has proved attractive to SISLink, ITV, Salford University, little by little, bit by bit, a new media ecology can grow here.

It won’t provide mass employment for the yoof of Langworthy – however much they say it might – but there is much more to it than that.

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