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A rousing speech

20 January 2012

Tracey Briggs, Chair of the Equity  Midlands Area Committee gave a rousing speech yesterday (19th of January) at the  Save BBC Birmingham rally.

As requested by members who couldn't make it, here's the text of Tracey's speech.


"This is not just about the loss of 150 jobs from our region, but the huge knock-on effect of the loss of BBC production made for the national network from our region. Soon we will never see ‘Made by BBC Birmingham’ on our television screens or hear this said on national radio broadcasts. Birmingham and the Midlands region will become invisible on the national network.

We are told by Mark Thompson not to worry because substantial network television and radio drama production will remain here in the form of the daytime serial “Doctors” and radio soap “The Archers”. Firstly let's be clear here, as much as I love “Doctors” it is not a substantial drama, it is a daytime continuous drama done on a shoestring budget. It has only been commissioned until 2014 and there is no guarantee it will remain in our region after this date.

As for “The Archers”, a much loved programme, it is the only radio drama now being made in our region. We used to produce so much more from here. And when the state-of-the-art Mailbox recording studio is reduced to only producing “The Archers” for four days a month, how long before the equipment breaks down due to lack of use and the BBC management decide to move “The Archers” elsewhere too.

Without the BBC, the Midlands will become culturally marginalised in terms of national broadcasting; its writers, actors and creative talent will be silenced and forced to tell stories of and from other regions, and its enormous population will be denied a voice on the airwaves.

In December BBC Vision launched a "nationwide" search for new disabled presenters, offering a unique training opportunity with the BBC. Screen tests will take place at six UK cities. Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, London, Salford and Bristol.

Anyone notice something missing here? Yes that would be Birmingham, so our region is already invisible. Our city and region which is the most culturally diverse in the country is already being wiped off the map, and if you want a training opportunity with the BBC you've no chance in this region.

BBC Factual is at the very heart of production in Birmingham, everything else revolves around it. When it's gone what will our students have to aspire to, what work will be left for the many smaller media companies in the region, where will our freelance technicians have to work? When HS2 finally arrives will Birmingham be nothing more than a commuter hub?

The BBC is as important to the Midlands economy as Rover was or as Cadbury's still is!! The net benefit of the BBC to our Midlands economy has been calculated to be nearly £30 million.

The people of the Midlands are entitled to better treatment from their national broadcaster, not least because we provide a very large proportion of the BBC’s licence fee revenue.

The West Midlands, with a population of 3 million, roughly the same as Scotland or alternatively, the combined populations of Wales, Northern Ireland and the South West. Yet none of these areas are affected by the BBC’s cost reduction proposals to the same extent as the Midlands.

As licence fee payers, we invest roughly £150 each per annum in the BBC, but all the economic benefit of our licence fee payment will benefit the economies of elsewhere. This is not properly fulfilling the BBC charter review agreement for production in all regions and nations.  Moving production from Birmingham and building one great big super hub in Salford is not serving the regions. It’s a shame Mark Thompson hasn't noticed regions has an ‘S’ on the end.

When Pebble Mill TV studios has been flattened and nothing has arrived to replace it and our freelancers are being forced to move elsewhere, due to an ever decreasing job market, how on earth can Mark Thompson guarantee increased investment with independent producers in the West Midlands?

Isn't the whole point of the BBC to nurture and bring on talent, in a way that commercial companies are not able to do. We certainly have an awful lot of talent in the Midlands region, but as the BBC management is determined to consolidate its centres down from 7 to 6 and wipe Birmingham off the map there will be no opportunities for the talent here.

None of these decisions being made by the BBC management save money; what they actually do is a great deal of harm to our region.

Please do everything you can to Save BBC Birmingham because once it's gone it's gone for good."

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