Campaign Launch Meeting
The Campaign launch meeting took place on Thursday 21st February at the Old Royal, Church Street, Birmingham.
It was a full house with over 80 people in attendance, including MP's and Birmingham City Councillors. We were also joined by business organisations, crafts people and a sizeable contingent of licence fee payers.
An extinguished line up of speakers
Guest speakers included the celebrated playwright, David Edgar (who spoke about the talent that is to be found in the region and the importance of tapping into it) and Neil Hillman, MD of The Audio Suite - Birmingham based sound engineers to many international film makers including Steven Speilberg (who spoke about the proud history of broadcasting in the region and the potential that the sector offers to the local economy).
A preview of BBC regional expenditure analysis
The final session looked at the analysis we have been conducting into BBC operational expenditure in its 7 nations & regions. This proved that there is one region which is not being treated the same as any other. We calculate that the BBC is only spending £12.30 per licence fee payer in its Midlands region (the lowest figure by far for any BBC region). In the north and south of England it spends an average of £74.63.
Whilst we were delighted to find that every other nation and English region has been able to secure a higher share of its own licence fee being spent 'in-region', the meeting also learned that some commissioning is still taking place in the capital with individual programmes being moved to the regions in order to meet a regional 'commitment'. We would like to see more commissons from the nations and the English regions rather than to them.
Many delegates at the launch expressed their surprise at the gap that has arisen over recent years between operational expenditure in the BBC Midlands region and elsewhere. To bring the region up to parity with its other 2 English regions (outside London) the BBC would need to increase its annual spend from £80 million to £452 million in the Midlands.
The statistics have been calculated using data provided by the BBC itself in its Annual Report 2012 and 'The Economic Value of the BBC' report (published January 2013) extrapolated against ONS population data. We have produced two sets of data. One uses the published BBC operational expenditure figures to the year ended 31st March 2012 and the other is a recalibrated set, that takes into account the last round of departmental closures and transfers within the English regions in 2012. Previews of both sets of calculations were presented at the launch meeting.
The meeting was also told that because the BBC is now spending so little in the Midlands, the region is seeing the highest net transfer of the licence fee out of the area than any other. We can also trace where this transfer is going. This appears to go directly to the BBC centre, for over 66% of BBC operational expenditure is still in the capital. (The full results of this analysis will be published by the Campaign in March).
A call for parity
The meeting concluded with a call for the Midlands to see a fair and equal share of its own licence fee being spent in the region. Our regional economy requires a fair proportion of the licence fee to be spent in it. There is no other tax that we are aware of that sees such a high net transfer of capital out of the region (to be spent elsewhere).
The Campaign is now underway. We were overwhelmed with the messages of the support that we received on the night and by email after the event. Thank you to everybody who attended and to all our supporters.
Launch meeting photos: Julian Elkan