BBC maps out further commitment to the West Midlands in “Across the UK” plan

The BBC has today revealed ambitious plans for its biggest transformation in decades, including moving more power and decision-making to the West Midlands. 

Over the next six years the BBC will increase activity across the West Midlands to further cement a commitment to reflect, represent and serve all parts of the country, and deliver great value for all audiences. 

The exciting proposals set out in “The BBC Across the UK” plan will also give even more prominence to stories from communities across the region as part of the biggest creative and journalistic reshaping of the BBC in its history.

Building on the region’s TV production strength, more primetime brands will join Great British Menu in the Midlands, there will be at least one new primetime drama series and one new primetime entertainment series commissioned in the region, and in network radio, the Asian Network will consolidate into one central Birmingham location.

There will also be a strong youth focus for the future of the BBC in Birmingham. Newsbeat, which provides news content for Radio 1, Radio 1Xtra and Asian Network will move to the city and BBC Three is launching a new documentary opportunity for producers to tell original stories from the Midlands. 

Tim Davie, Director-General of the BBC, said:

“Our mission must be to deliver for the whole country and ensure every household gets value from us. These plans show how we want to be closer to audiences, create jobs and investment and develop and nurture talent.

“Over the last year, the BBC – which has been an essential part of the UK’s culture, democracy and creativity for almost a century – has helped inform, educate and entertain all four Nations, as we have collectively faced some of our toughest moments in recent history.

“Now, as we look to the future, we must play our part in supporting the UK’s social and economic recovery; rebuilding the creative sector and telling the stories that need to be heard from all corners of the country.”

“The BBC Across the UK” plans set out in detail for the West Midlands include:

  • The BBC will build on the region’s TV production strength with more primetime brands joining Great British Menu in the Midlands
  • The Asian Network will be consolidated in Birmingham and Newsbeat will move to the city – providing news content for Radio 1, Radio 1Xtra and Asian Network. 
  • BBC News Data Team will partly relocate to Birmingham
  • At least one new primetime drama series and one new primetime entertainment series will be commissioned in the region. 
  • BBC local radio will launch a new peak time local radio service for Wolverhampton.  
  • New Learning Hubs in Birmingham and Wolverhampton will open; creating exciting opportunities for young people across the West Midlands.
  • BBC Three will launch a documentary opportunity for producers in the Midlands to tell original stories from the region. 
  • The BBC will pilot an Apprentice Training Agency in the West Midlands 
  • Regional BBC One HD services will launch making our regional content available on HD for the first time. 
  • The BBC will recruit a new network of community digital reporters to help bring our journalism closer to communities. 

The central aim of the “Across the UK” plan is to move power, investment and resources right across the UK and increase the BBC’s economic, cultural, and social impact in every corner of the country and working closely with regional partners. Today also marks the start of a ground-breaking new formal partnership agreement between the BBC, Create Central and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). 

Over the next five years, the jointly signed Memorandum of Understanding will enable the BBC to work with Create Central and regional partners to significantly enhance its presence and investment in the region – cementing its place as an anchor media partner in the West Midlands.

Ed SheddChair of Create Central, said: 

“A great result for the West Midlands! Since its launch Create Central has been working closely with our regional partners on activities aimed at turbo-charging the growth of the region’s creative content sector. This innovative partnership agreement with the BBC, Create Central and the WMCA, lays the foundations for a bright future for both audiences and creators in the West Midlands.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: 

“Today is a landmark day for the BBC and the West Midlands. For too long our region has been under-represented within the corporation but working with the new Director General Tim Davie over the last few months we are now beginning to put past problems right. The BBC’s commitment as part of our ground-breaking regional partnership is not just about jobs and buildings, it’s about ensuring that the voices and culture of the West Midlands are heard in BBC programming. From producing major prime-time TV shows here to the relocation of Newsbeat, today’s announcement is the first step towards achieving that fair representation and a much brighter future.”

Cllr Ian Brookfield, City of Wolverhampton Council Leader and WMCA Economy and Innovation Portfolio Holder said: 

“The creative industries are a key part of the economy in the West Midlands. Like many other sectors, our creative content sector has been hit hard by Covid-19 which is why it is hugely important that we see investment from the BBC in the region. The investment will provide jobs, skills and opportunities for people from across the West Midlands as we bounce back from the pandemic and thrive in the months and years ahead.”

The BBC, Create Central and WMCA agree to work closely and formally together in order to make more of the BBC’s existing presence in the region. The BBC will work closely with Create Central to promote the West Midlands’ creative content sector as a centre of excellence and a destination for production and inward investment. 

You can read more about The BBC Across the UK plan here.