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Equity warns Birmingham City Council about impact of hundreds of job losses

“Masterchef is no replacement for BBC Doctors”

Equity members disrupt Council meeting to challenge BBC’s narrative of events

Equity has warned that the BBC’s proposal to move Masterchef to Birmingham is ‘no replacement’ for the 100 permanent union jobs and 400 leading guest roles per year that the recently cancelled continuing drama Doctors offered the city’s economy.

Addressing Full Council today at Birmingham City Council, Equity member and Birmingham resident Tracey Briggs told councillors that “Masterchef was supposed to be an additional investment to Doctors, not a replacement.”

Ms. Briggs was supported by a delegation of Equity members in the public gallery as she asked during public question time:

Is the Council aware of the economic damage that will be caused by the BBC’s decision to cancel Doctors, a long running continuing drama filmed and produced in Birmingham; and will the council sign up to support Equity’s campaign to ensure the BBC continues investment of equal value in Birmingham that creates and supports good union jobs; and will it seek assurances from the BBC to this effect?

Council leader John Cotton thanked Equity for its campaign and welcomed the promises of BBC replacement investment, such as Masterchef. At this point Ms. Briggs intervened to challenge the BBC narrative that Masterchef was an adequate replacement investment for Birmingham, bringing a pause to Council proceedings and eliciting statements of support from councillors in the chamber.

Equity will now seek a meeting with the Council leader to explain the union’s industrial concerns and the economic damage the BBC has caused for the city due to their decision to cancel the drama.

Tracey Briggs, Equity member and Birmingham City resident said:

The BBC’s Doctors series represents a significant source of stable, high quality jobs for Equity’s members in the West Midlands. It is one of the cheapest dramas produced on British TV, yet its large cast and crew offers regular work to people living in and around Birmingham, in addition to a cycle of guest parts that offer early career performers a break into the industry. Many prominent actors that are seen on screens today got their start in Doctors.

“The BBC argues that it can no longer afford to support Doctors as a continuing drama, but has pledged that it will continue to invest in the West Midlands. Equity has campaigned to regionalise production in the arts and entertainment industry, and we welcome the commitment to retain investment in the region. High quality continuing drama is at an all-time low, as is BBC investment in the Midlands.”

In October 2023, BBC Studios announced the cancellation of Doctors after 23 years, including the loss of 100 permanent jobs on union contracts, and 400+ leading guest roles per year.

Equity criticised the decision in a statement, describing the job losses as “disastrous” to cast and crew, and arguing that alternative work will be hard to come by as “there are very few job prospects due to continuing underinvestment in the region.”

We have made three key demands of the BBC as part our Save BBC Drama in the Midlands campaign:

  1. A commitment to equivalent funding for investment in BBC drama in the Midlands.
  2. A Jobs Plan which sets out how this funding will replace the jobs lost from Doctors.
  3. A Training and Access to Industry Plan which replaces the early career development pathway Doctors provided to many of our members.

We are asking MPs and Birmingham City Council to support its campaign by making these demands to the BBC themselves.

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