It’s six years since the BBC decamped to MediaCity.
The landmark move was completed on time and within budget – two facts you may have missed because of the glut of negative stories that appeared at the time.
The BBC didn’t miss a second of programmes and the Public Accounts Committee actually praised the MediaCity relocation. However the newspapers at the time were dominated by stories of senior execs not relocating to the North; a lack of jobs going to locals; and even the employment of a ‘chair champion’.
A couple weeks ago Christine Bellamy, who is the head of product at the BBC, took part in a digital summit called by Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham.
Bellamy is local, from the North West and a mother of three boys. It’s easy to demonize people who work in the Beeb but she’s as “normal” as me and you.
She was explaining how the BBC employ 3,000 people at MediaCity, including 800 in the digital sector, which is the biggest slice. The timing of the summit coincided with an announcement of plans to hire an additional 200 people to work on digital projects at BBC North.
The Beeb has been accused of “hoovering up the best digital talent” and driving up wage inflation but Bellamy says it’s simply not true and they have the same recruitment problems as other employers in the space.
This week I went up to MediaCity. The trip was arranged ages ago but it took place on the day the BBC published a list of how much it pays its highest earning staff. For the record Chris Evans topped the list by earning between £2.2m and £2.25m in 2016/2017.
I spoke to about seven different people, including senior execs to PAs, and they all live in the North West and love their job but you probably won’t read about that either.
I got to sit on the iconic red BBC Breakfast sofa, which is home to presenters Louise Minchin and Dan Walker, and two things struck me. The first is the studio is operated by one cameraman because technology allows it to be largely controlled remotely from the gallery.
The second thing I realised was the bits of the sofa that are out of camera shot are actually pretty threadbare. If the BBC are guilty of profligacy it’s not on expensive furniture!
At this point I should make clear that I’m not an apologist for the BBC. For goodness sake I used to work at the Daily Mail once upon a time! It’s right that we hold the publicly-funded broadcaster to account and it does need to restructure itself because chunks of it remain unwieldy and bureaucratic.
However, and this is the point of this week’s blog, we have to stop kicking the BBC for the sake of it. I trust the BBC. I spend hours listening to podcasts and driving in the summer listening to Test Match Special.
The BBC’s arrival at MediaCity was a shot in the arm for the North and we continue to benefit. Critics demanding the dismantling of the BBC should be careful of what they wish for because we’d all be worse off if that happened.