BBC Look North?
Guardian columnist Peter Preston uses his column to have a go at the BBC's strategic decision to move big chunks of its organization - primarily sport and children's television - away from Television Centre in Shepherd's Bush (the BBC headquarters in West London) up to Manchester. He thinks it's far too expensive - at GBP500 million - and a result of the muddled thinking of Mark Thompson and Michael Grade (who took over from, respectively, the much-loved Greg Dyke and Gavyn Davies as director general and chair of the board of governors). Preston's deeper concern, though, is that the money will be utterly wasted as, in time, the Beeb's core functions are pulled back South by London's immense gravitational pull on all things cultural in England (a force that, among other things, pulled the Guardian itself to London from Manchester). Much as I hate to say it, but he's probably right.
However, the most fundamental point Preston makes elaborates on what I was talking about in a previous post, about the trouble with the BBC's funding mechanism. He suggests: "In five years, Lord Burns or his government-appointed successors may conclude that BBC funding can't sustain the new hubs and services just finished in Manchester. Perhaps they won't like whatever deal has been struck on the governors and will seek to uproot it again. Perhaps the Tories will be in power." He continues:
- And none of this has anything to do with bricks, mortar and the ability to chart a course. None of it helps an institution we could easily help by guaranteed licence fee and lengthened charter if we wanted to, for barely the price of a new ID card. Give power and resources back to the doctors and nurses, but take it away from the programme makers? Grant greater autonomy to classrooms, but not studio floors? Welcome, alas, to the Blair-blurred, British-bodged Broadcasting Corporation.