×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BBC Could Move More Operations Outside London, Its Boss Suggests

Amid longstanding complaints from many viewers that the BBC is too London-centric, the boss of the world’s most famous pubcaster hinted Thursday that it could move more of its operations and programming outside the British capital.

Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, said the organization had already made “enormous strides” in geographical diversity. “A decade ago, a third of the BBC was based outside London and two thirds was in London. Today, that balance is 50-50,” Hall told a gathering of the Royal Television Society in Cambridge, England. “We’ve moved from less than 10% of our network TV programs produced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to 20%.”

But he said he wanted the Beeb “to think bigger. Imagine a world in which the BBC moved still more out of London. And I think we could be really radical here. Now I know all the risks. It would take time. It would cost money. It could be hugely disruptive. But what an enormous creative as well as operational opportunity.”

Hall offered no specifics about a potential reallocation of resources and activity by the BBC, which has been the target of criticism for years from residents and politicians who accuse it of being too London-focused. Any move would likely meet with vociferous objections from some of the broadcaster’s London-based staff. Only a few years ago, the Beeb shifted some of its operations to the northern English city of Salford, outside Manchester, which is now home to its sports programming, children’s channels and digital operations. However, more than half of the London-based middle managers whose jobs migrated to Salford refused to go.

Currently, fellow British pubcaster Channel 4 is preparing to establish a new headquarters in Leeds, also in northern England, in part because of political pressure to diversify geographically. That move, too, is likely to trigger a wave of resignations of London-based Channel 4 employees.

Leeds, nearly 200 miles north of London, is fast becoming a media hub. On Wednesday, Sky Studios, the new production unit of pay-TV giant Sky, announced that it was setting up an innovation center there to tap into talent across the region. Sky already employs about 1,300 people in the city.

In his speech in Cambridge, Hall said that the BBC was trying to transform itself to keep up with changing viewing habits in the digital era. Key to that is the BBC iPlayer, which began as a simple online catchup service with a limited window but which now offers live streaming, box sets and other forms of content.

“We are already transforming iPlayer from a catchup service into a destination in its own right,” Hall said. “iPlayer will be the place you go to for your news, your sport, the place you go to for drama, documentaries, live channels – everything we do. So iPlayer is going to be total TV.”

The BBC is also a partner with commercial broadcaster ITV in BritBox, the “best-of-British” subscription streaming service that launched in the U.S. in 2017 and is due to roll out on home turf, in the U.K., by the end of this year. On Thursday, shortly before Hall’s address, British media regulator Ofcom gave its blessing to the launch, overriding concerns that BritBox would give the BBC an unfair leg up in the British marketplace. “There is not a significant risk that the BBC’s proposed involvement in BritBox will distort the market or create an unfair competitive advantage,” Ofcom said.

“With Ofcom giving us the go-ahead today, [BritBox will] be coming here later this year,” Hall said. “And it will be a great showcase for stories dreamed up, created and told by British producers and talent.”

More TV

  • Inside Taronga Zoo

    Nat Geo Wild and More 4 Snap Up Australian Doc Series 'Inside Taronga Zoo'

    Cineflix Rights has pre-sold Australian wildlife documentary series “Inside Taronga Zoo” to Nat Geo Wild for the U.S. and More 4 for the U.K. The 10 part series is produced by McAvoy Media for Nine Network Australia, where it will air as “Taronga: Who’s Who In The Zoo.” “Inside Taronga Zoo” follows the 240 keepers and vets caring for [...]

  • Watchmen HBO

    TV Review: 'Watchmen'

    “Watchmen,” the 1980s DC Comics series whose popularity demands adaptation and whose singular vision makes that near-impossible, might be too much itself to bring out the best in any artist. But it has brought out the most in Damon Lindelof. As a follow-up to HBO’s “The Leftovers,” Lindelof returns to the cabler to remix and [...]

  • Mary Higgins Clark

    Reel One, Element 8 and La Sabotière to Develop Mary Higgins Clark's Crime Novels

    Montreal-based producer and distributor Reel One Entertainment has partnered with U.S. producer Element 8 Entertainment and Paris-based La Sabotière to develop an anthology series based on the novels of American crime writer Mary Higgins Clark. U.S. screenwriter and author Ilene Rosenzweig, whose credits include “Station 19” and “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” is attached as writer [...]

  • Informer

    Mipcom Roundup: All3Media and Blue Ant Sell in Asia, Lagardère Buys in Spain

    In Variety’s third Mipcom Roundup Alibaba’s streaming platform Youku gets BBC programs, Lagardère buys full ownership of Barcelona’s Veranda, Banijay rolls out Guinness World Records series, Blue Ant International sells and renews and All3Media Intl. extends into Japan and Taiwan. All3Media Strikes Deals in Japan, Taiwan All3Media has grown its footprint in Asia thanks to newly announced [...]

  • Help Wanted: Amazon Studios International Execs

    Help Wanted: Amazon Studios International Execs Talk European Expansion

    If there’s a perfect example of Amazon Studios’ strategy with its local-language international TV content, Japan’s “Documental” would be it. The series revolves around 10 comedians who battle to make one another laugh in an elimination-style competition. James Farrell, Amazon Studios’ head of international originals, said it was a good example of an unconventional idea [...]

  • vernon-subutex

    Studiocanal Closes North America SVOD on ‘Vernon Subutex’ with Topic (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES —  Forging what could well be a fertile relationship, Studiocanal has sold North American SVOD rights on Canal Plus Creation Original “Vernon Subutex,” and “Pros and Cons,” from Denmark’s SAM Productions, to First Look Media’s Topic. Targeting “culture cravers,” “an audience deeply involved in social, political and cultural issues of today,” general manger Ryan [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content