Basing two-thirds of staff outside London offers enormous opportunity – BBC boss

The BBC’s director-general has warned that plans to base two-thirds of the broadcaster’s staff outside London will be “hugely disruptive” but could offer “enormous creative opportunities”.

Speaking at the broadcaster’s Cardiff headquarters, Tony Hall announced plans to increase the BBC’s presence in locations other than the capital.

Addressing staff, he said that by the time the BBC’s charter comes to an end in 2027 he hopes to have “at least” achieved his two-thirds target.

Royal visit to the BBC
Lord Hall described the plans as an ‘enormous creative opportunity’ (Ben Stansall/PA)

He said: “I know all the risks. It will take time. It would cost money. It could be hugely disruptive.

“But it is an enormous creative opportunity; for audiences, for talent, for the UK.

“It will make us more relevant; more in touch with audiences; more alive to creative opportunities.”

He announced that Salford would become the “heart” of the BBC Sounds app and a design and engineering tech hub would be set up in Newcastle.

New BBC site in Manchester
Salford is to become the ‘heart’ of the BBC Sounds app (Martin Rickett/PA)

He also said the broadcaster would “produce much more journalism” in the north of England, with a large proportion of digital growth coming from there.

Lord Hall added that the BBC’s Bristol base, which is home to the broadcaster’s natural history film-making activities, would be expanded with the creation of up to 150 new jobs.

“Today, over half our spending – and half our teams – are away from the capital,” he said.

He also announced that BritBox, a UK streaming service set up with other broadcasters to counter the dominance of US platforms, would be expanding into other countries.

BritBox service launches
Lord Hall talked about plans for BritBox (Britbox/PA)

An announcement about the move is expected later this year, he said.

Further plans to increase the BBC’s global appeal includes doubling the reach of the World Service.

Lord Hall said: “We’re giving so many more people access to news and information they can trust.

“It’s working. We’re attracting new audiences everywhere.

“In India, for instance, we’re now reaching 50 million – up by more than 70% in just a year.”

BritBox streaming service
Lord Hall said he hopes to expand the reach of the World Service (Ben Stansall/PA)

He added that he hopes to get one billion people using the platform each week by the end of the decade.

As well as focusing on the international impact of the broadcaster’s output, Lord Hall also said that BBC local radio “matters more now than ever, as commercial media retreats”.

But stations need to adapt “as audiences change”, he added.

He also used his speech to focus on climate change, saying that he wanted to “see what it would take” to make the BBC carbon neutral by 2027.

There would also be a year of special programming, digital coverage and events leading up to the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November, he said.

Other themes the broadcaster plans to focus on in news coverage in 2020 include artificial intelligence, tech giants and the challenged posed by an ageing population.

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