BBC moving to UK regions

The BBC is to controversially move about half of its in-house production (including The Weakest Link, pictured, left) out to the regions over the next eight years. Some 20% of its £900m production budget will go to the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Ireland regional production centres by 2016.

While the viewing public will not necessarily notice that the nightly The Weakest Link is to come from Glasgow, and CrimeWatch shift to Cardiff, the coverage of two extremely London-centric summer events (The Chelsea Flower Show, and a similar event from Hampton Court) are to be managed from gritty Birmingham, might create a few smiles. In fairness, Birmingham is already responsible for the BBC’s “gardening” coverage.

The BBC is already committed to shifting 1600 staff from London to a new regional HQ in Salford, Manchester. Seven new “creative clusters” are to be established: Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, London, Bristol, Salford and Birmingham. Scotland, currently getting about 3.3% of the BBC’s network spending, will end up with nine per cent by 2016.

The announcements were made in London by Jana Bennett, the BBC’s director of television. "I believe that by investing in talent across the UK there will be more talent on our screens which reflect different types of voices and a different sense of place and a different way of thinking," said Ms Bennett. "The BBC wants to increase its approval in the north of England, for example, and in Scotland."

One of the oddest decisions is to shift production of hospital-based drama Casualty from Bristol across the Severn Estuary to Cardiff, in order to boost the BBC’s spending in Wales from 2.6% to about 5%. In other words this is very much a statistical exercise, and has little to do with viewer benefit.

And already the objections are coming in. David Dimbleby, anchor of the BBC’s popular Question Time topical current affairs show, has expressed his “dismay” that the show is to be relocated to Scotland, and according to reports may quit the programme.