BBC plans jobs exodus from London: John Birt aims to save pounds 100m in move to regions

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The Independent Online
THE BBC is planning to move a substantial proportion of its programme makers and resources out of London to meet public demand for more output from outside the capital.

The switch to regional centres, such as Birmingham and Manchester, will also save money and help the BBC meet its objective of rationalising its London offices, where pounds 100m of savings are being sought.

David Hatch, a special adviser to John Birt, the director general, is currently studying all BBC departments, including radio, news and current affairs and resources, and will be drawing up a report to be presented to the corporation's management and board of governors by next February. The aim is to produce a policy which will spread the spending on BBC programmes more fairly across England, and the national regions.

At present about 21.5 per cent of the budget spent for nationally networked programmes goes to the regions. This is worth pounds 160m annually, and divides into pounds 130m for television, and pounds 30m for the five national radio services. It is due to increase to 23 per cent next year even before a more radical policy shift takes place. But this is separate from the money spent on regional programmes and local radio.

John Birt, keen to rationalise the BBC's organisation, has said the low amounts spent in the regions is 'indefensible'. He has introduced a policy of centres of excellence, relocating output of key strands such as religion and youth programmes in, for example, Manchester.