A panoramic photograph of Malham Cove in North Yorkshire.

Five years in Manchester


In 2011 the BBC moved some of its operation to Greater Manchester.

There were two main aims of moving BBC Breakfast and Radio 5 Live to Salford. First, to generate economic growth outside of London and help decentralise the UK economy. Second, to better represent the whole of the UK in the BBC’s output. Audience surveys consistently show less satisfaction with the BBC the further people are from London.

Five years on, was it worth the huge effort and expense?

Decentralising our economy

Using data from a 2016 Nesta report on the geography of creativity in the UK we see that the creative economy in Greater Manchester has boomed since the BBC’s move to Manchester. Most importantly we see that the same did not happen in the similar control cities of Leeds and Birmingham.

The BBC’s move to Manchester created jobs and new business in related fields.

Representing the nation

Has Radio 5 live’s move made Northern people listen to Radio 5 more? The answer, contained on page 9 of the supporting performance analysis to a BBC report on speech radio is clear. It has not. Whether that statement deserves to be followed by “yet” is a matter of personal opinion.

More to do and more to measure

The BBC is not great at open data. I have written and spoken about this before and it makes analysis like this difficult.

There are considerable questions about how much the BBC has moved North. The vast majority of spend in 2014 was still in London for example. And the BBC report on speech radio I mentioned earlier considered hiring more Northern writers to be a significant attempt to increase Northern audiences despite the fact that the majority of those Northern writers live in South-East England.

I think that the BBC’s presence in Manchester is a huge success of UK government. It has clearly shifted economic activity both in the public sector and in the private sector to the North of England. On the basis of the data I have now I cannot say that it has increased the representation of the UK on the BBC. I will keep looking.


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