Frequently Asked Questions
Does the campaign endorse the licence fee as way to fund broadcasting?
Yes, most definitely. We firmly believe that the presence of a publicly funded broadcaster in a wider spectrum of platforms, channels and advertising funded providers has led, and continues to lead to higher production standards and increased competition across much, if not all of the UK’s broadcasting sector. It is no irony whatsoever that many commercial broadcasters in the UK have a solid record for creativity and content production, directly related to the need to compete with a publicly funded broadcaster. This is also true for the generally high standards of advertising on British television. However, we believe there should be a fair, 50% distribution of the licence fee across the nations & regions and the Midlands is not seeing that. If the BBC cannot redistribute our own licence fee fairly then we advocate legislation to force it do so, or alternatively, the licence fee could be handed to an independent authority and a share of it could it be distributed to other programme makers who show more of an interest in the region. It is public money after all.
Is the campaign for or against the BBC?
We are enthusiastic supporters of a British Broadcasting Corporation that is devolved across the nations and regions of the UK. By this, we believe there should be a more equitable spread of facilities, commissioning, people and programme making to reflect the rich regional diversity of the country as a whole – not selected parts of it. We believe that a BBC should be closer and more local to those who pay for it. The BBC that we would prefer to see is not the one that has emerged in the last 15 years or more. This is especially true for the Midlands which has the highest number of licence fee payers of any of the BBC’s 7 macro nations & regions but sees the lowest spending on programme making by far; has no television production studios; has been left with only a handful of employees and small production units.
Are you trying to get a share of BBC expenditure from the other Nations & Regions?
No. We are a campaign that promotes the regions as being places where talent is employed, facilities are developed and programmes are made. Therefore we are truly delighted to find that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are seeing a far higher return of their licence fee income to their own areas. Likewise we endorse the move of some BBC departments to outside London but we have a concern that the BBC is still too centralised. Whilst BBC expenditure in the north has increased significantly since 2012, we note that this is not across the north as a whole. At the same time, radio & TV programme making expenditure in the Midlands has decreased significantly over many years and continues to do so. It seems to us that whilst investment in the nations and the north has quite rightly increased, the BBC has endeavoured to maintain its London presence. It has done this at the expense of the Midlands - the only region where programme spend has actually gone down every year, since 2007.
Nowhere pays more for the BBC in London than the Midlands, infact we pay about £770 million or so towards BBC spending in London every year. That's about £300 million more than London Licence fee payers! This is to the detriment of jobs and representation for the region. As delighted as we are that spending in the north and the nations has increased, we would like to see a far more just and equitable spread to benefit all licence fee payers.
The BBC say that they have a “continuing commitment” to the Midlands. How do you respond to that?
The proof is there for all to see. We say to the BBC, take a look at your own TV and national radio scehdules, and you will find the Midlands is mostly missing in your output. Certainly, when compared to other parts of the UK, there is no daily evidence of a continuing commitment. Far from it. A more honest dialogue is called for, and a commitment to rebuiold, and even up BBC spending across all the English regions at least.
The BBC say that Birmingham is the home of “substantial drama”.
We would not describe drama output from the Midlands as being substantial but we are very proud of what the talented team at the BBC Drama Village in Selly Oak are able to produce on the smallest of drama budgets. Doctors is a daytime drama that is made for one third of the budget of EastEnders, with more episodes and a healthy 2 million daytime viewers. On average there are one or two other short series of daytime drama (usually 5 or 10 episodes each) made here each year. With no regular peak time drama slot and no associated peak time drama budget then we believe a much more accurate description of the Drama Village’s capabilities and output would be “efficient” and “well made”. Substantially more drama from the Midlands is needed.
The Licence Fee is under severe pressure. Shouldn’t the Midlands & East see its share of expenditure cutbacks?
Retrenchment in the region has been constant for at least 20 years or so. Much longer than the pressures that the BBC currently faces. In fact, there is very little left of the BBC in the region. The corporation needs to live up the first B of its name if it is to justify to the region why £896 million is raised here. Cutbacks in the Midlands have been far more severe than any other nation or region. Yes, we now have no production studios! Yes, there are virtually no programmes shown on peak-time BBC television that are made here. Yes, we have seen the lwest share of network TV spending for the last 6 years running. The BBC is under financial pressure that is for sure, but extravagance and highly flawed planning in the past have also contributed to this. In the meantime, to protect its centre, the BBC appears to have been using the Midlands as a cash cow. In short, we simply do not accept the austerity argument as a reason for what we have witnessed in this region. It seems to be a disregard for the region itself, and maybe a belief that Midlands & East will squeal the least. This thinking must be reversed.
What about the other broadcasters? Don't they have an even worse record than the BBC.
The Campaign is not just about the BBC. We also question why ITV produces so little network output in the Midlands & East. We are awaiting the latest Ofcom register for regional production, to update ourselves on ITV's record. We also note that Channel 4 could improve its position in the region, having spent only 3% of its outside London budget in the Midlands in 2019. Why do none of them have a strong regional presence? There are solutions to these problems that we will seek to offer in the months ahead. The difference between the commercial sector and the BBC is that we pay a form of taxation to the BBC and as such, we strongly believe that 50% of that should be retained and spent in the region. With a stronger BBC presence in the Midlands, it could act as a catalyst for other broadcasters and programme makers.