BBC unveils plans to ‘better reflect’ all parts of the UK

Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent
·4-min read

The BBC has announced plans to “better reflect” all parts of the UK.

It will shift away from London over the next six years in what it has called its “biggest transformation in decades”.

The move, which BBC bosses hope changes the tone of its programmes and journalism, comes after the broadcaster was accused by some of failing to understand the vote for Brexit.

BBC Director General Tim Davie
BBC Director General Tim Davie (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Viewers will see a “noticeable shift in portrayal of different parts of the UK in drama, comedy and factual” shows, the broadcaster said.

News and current affairs programmes like Newsnight will be presented from different UK bases throughout the year.

Radio 4’s Today programme will be co-presented from outside London for at least 100 episodes a year. PM will also be presented from across the UK.

The BBC said that “major parts of BBC News” would “shift across the UK… ensuring we cover the stories that matter most to audiences and more effectively representing different voices and perspectives.”

The new plan is designed to result in editorial choices which are influenced by communities across the UK.

The move comes after former Today programme host John Humphrys previously said the BBC failed to understand the vote for Brexit.

And Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said “the BBC needs to be closer to, and understand the perspectives of, the whole of the United Kingdom and avoid providing a narrow urban outlook.”

Under the new plan, a “clear majority” of the BBC’s “UK-wide TV will be made across the UK, not in London – at least 60% of network TV commissions by spend.”

Key daytime programmes on each of Radio 1, 1Xtra and Radio 2 will be made across the UK and 50% of network radio and music spend will be outside London by 2027/28.

Broadcaster John Humphrys
Broadcaster John Humphrys (Yui Mok/PA)

More than 100 new and returning drama and comedy titles will reflect the lives and communities of audiences outside London over the next three years, the BBC said.

Funds will be invested in two major drama series, one set in the North of England and the other from one of the Nations.

BBC One daytime show Morning Live will be broadcast year-round from Salford.

The BBC said the plans will “cement our commitment to better reflect, represent, and serve all parts of the country.”

Unveiling the new plans, which comes as the BBC begins discussions with the Government over the future cost of the licence fee, BBC Director-General Tim Davie said that the “challenges for the BBC are real, and we must act now.”

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He said that “people must feel we are closer to them”.

With the rise of global streaming giants “the jeopardy for the BBC remains high”.

And he added: “Our mission must be to deliver for the whole of the UK and ensure 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.”

By 2027/28, the BBC will spend at least an extra £700 million cumulatively across the UK, it said.

In radio, Newsbeat and Asian Network will be based in Birmingham, while Radio 3 and 6 Music will be “rooted in Salford”.

Kym Marsh presents Morning Live
Kym Marsh presents Morning Live (Ian West/PA)

More performances from the Proms – which sparked controversy last year over an initial decision to play Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory without lyrics – will be broadcast outside London.

Around 400 roles – around half of those in BBC News – will be relocated outside London.

The BBC previously moved hundreds of staff and a number of services to Salford, affecting Children’s, Sport, and 5 Live.

The broadcaster said its property estate in London would be reduced.

Trade union Bectu said the “devil will be in the detail”.

Its national secretary Noel McClean said: “One of the greatest benefits of public service broadcasting is the opportunity to tell the stories of all peoples across the nations and regions of the UK.

“It is good to see the BBC wanting to build on its strong local offering and prioritise getting closer to communities across the nations and regions of the UK.

“Our immediate concern is the impact on people, our members. As ever, the devil will be in the detail and Bectu will be going through the proposals with a fine tooth comb to ensure that workers are properly supported through these changes and that the need for redundancies is minimised.”

Julian Knight MP, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “We welcome the BBC’s decision to move more of its operations to Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds and Salford which will give licence fee payers greater bang for their buck.

“It’s the start of greater recognition of the need to commit to and rebalance audiences outside London.

“However we hope these changes will not repeat some of the costly mistakes made by the BBC in its previous move to Salford.

“This has to represent value for money for licence fee payers.”