Thursday, July 24, 2008

Birmingham Media

The Stirrer is reporting that Equity is launching a campaign to save the BBC Drama Village in Birmingham as another decision to move the programmes to Salford has been put off. Most of my criticisms of the BBC are not the usual nonsense one will find in the blogosphere that it is biased to the left and the Labour party, but that it fails to represent all of the country in its programming and opinions, a position which is hard to justify because we all pay the same license fee. While I welcomed the move by the BBC to create a new major centre away from London in Greater Manchester, I do not think it is fair that programmes made in smaller BBC centres such as Birmingham and Bristol are being moved to justify its cost; the programmes should be moved from London and more smaller regional centres built. The way things are going, there will be very few BBC programmes produced outside London, Salford and Cardiff. This is hardly representative broadcasting.

Another thing about the BBC is the way it has bought into Brand Manchester, and often refers to its proposed Salford facility as "Manchester" rather than referring to the City of Salford in which it is actually located. On Radio Five Live the other day, they even asked whether the newly promoted Salford City Reds would be changing their name to Manchester! I am confused as to why the BBC want to promote geographical counties rather than proper cities; perhaps many of them are still confused by living in London.

The BBC's proposed flight from Birmingham is not the only one, however. Adrian Goldberg has consistently reported on his Stirrer website how local radio stations are shunning locally produced programmes to broadcast networked shows from London (even BBC WM moved a late night show from the city to Nottingham; Radio 2's late shows which were produced in the Mailbox have moved to London, as has the One Show despite the fact it was successfully piloted in Brum). Birmingham has always been very bad at promoting itself outside the region and the moves over the past few months seem to confirm that the city is seen as a broadcasting backwater.

It is not all bad news however. The steady stream of blows to Birmingham's media has led the creative community to look at the creation of a new radio station in Birmingham, Rhubarb Radio, which is probably going to be loosely based on Resonance FM in London and is hoping to start broadcasting soon from the Custard Factory. And Channel 4 will be opening its new digital media HQ in Birmingham. It seems that while the traditional media may be shunning Birmingham, new media looks set to embrace it. Whether this is the way forward remains to be seen.

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