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TV & Radio

It's still grim up North if you want to get a job at the BBC

Fewer than one in 100 applicants from Salford find work at Corporation's new northern outpost

The BBC defended its employment record yesterday after it emerged that it had taken on only 26 people from Salford, where its £200m northern headquarters is based.

Fewer than one in 100 applicants from the city, which is one of Britain's worst unemployment blackspots, has been hired by the Corporation, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed.

Of the 26 people recruited, 10 were part of an "ambassador programme" which employs 16- to 19-year-olds on six-month contracts to meet and greet guests arriving at the new MediaCity complex at Salford Quays. They are paid between £3.64 and £4.92 an hour.

Ken Lee, the human resources director of BBC North, described the figures as a "promising start" but said the Corporation could not hire staff based solely on where they lived. "The BBC has recruited from across the North of England based on skills and experience, not by postcode," he added.

In addition, 90 Salfordians have been employed as support staff by the BBC's building contractor Balfour Beatty.

So far 680 new jobs have been created among the 1,846 staff at BBC North. The centre, on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, has been home to BBC Sport, children's programmes, Radio 5 and BBC Breakfast since last year.

Nearly 67,000 people from all over the UK applied via the BBC's website for a job at MediaCity. However, only 529 posts were eventually filled via the online job bank.

Tessa Jowell, the former Labour Culture Secretary who approved the BBC's £1.5bn relocation, promised at the time that it would provide "huge knock-on effects for the regional economy".

The BBC's arrival has been better news for those from the wider Greater Manchester area. Of the 23,023 people who applied for jobs, 233 were successful – more than from any other part of the UK.

But the figures were criticised yesterday by Hazel Blears, the Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, who campaigned to bring the BBC to her constituency. She said she was demanding an urgent meeting with Peter Aalmon, the director of BBC North, to discuss the issue. Ms Blears said: "I'm shocked they have only come up with such a small number and I think they can do much, much better. In these difficult economic circumstances it is vital that local people are able to take jobs in their home areas."

Salford by numbers...

229,000 population.

9.7 per cent of the population is unemployed.

£421 Gross weekly pay (UK average £503).

8.9 Number of jobseekers' allowance claimants per unfilled vacancy (nearly twice the UK average of 4.7).