BBC sets out northern agenda in annual plan
By Tom Grant
The BBC has released its Annual Plan for 2022/23, highlighting the corporation’s aspirations for the upcoming year. Director General Tim Davie and Chairman Richard Sharp stated in the foreword that the six-year-plan “will deliver the biggest programme reform since the 1990s and will help restore the UK’s creative economy after the pandemic”.
The plan is the first since the corporation’s announcement of their Across the UK initiative, which aims to move workforce outside of London and into regional bureaus up and down the country. With this comes the move of news story teams to Salford and Leeds, as well as other cities across the nation, by September of this year.
The corporation plans to work with its regional bureaus on new television commissions and productions in “key regions”, with London-centred productions working with the West Midlands and the North East in particular. It will also “ensure all regional variants of BBC One in England are available in HD by early 2023”, which will end the separate HD network ‘highlight’ showreels aired during regional bulletins.
The big push for the BBC is in the North of England, with a new Documentary Commissioner based in the North and plans to produce a wide range of drama titles in the North West. Two major new dramatizations will look at the North-South divide, including Elizabeth Gaskell’s production North and South.
BBC Three favourite Angels of the North returns to Tyneside, whilst a new series of Ambulance follows the activities of the North East Ambulance Service, and Hospital is to be filmed in Leeds.
In radio, 5Live “continues to be the only national speech station in the North,” and Radio 2’s 21st Century Folk follows the stories of life in the North East of England in 2022. BBC Radio 3’s Philharmonic Orchestra is to partner with Music and Performing Arts Salford (MAPAS) to provide brass playing in local schools, with MAPAS and the University of Salford to establish the Salford Communities Orchestra, and the Royal Northern College of Music.
The station is also continuing to progress in its plans to make over 50% of its broadcast hours outside of London by 2025 and will be continued to be rooted in the North, at MediaCityUK in Salford. Radio 4 is bringing a modern-day radio adaption of the 1990s series Our Friends in the North, which follows the lives of four friends in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
BBC England is to work with BBC Three to develop production schemes in the network of regions, which includes Northern Voices, which aims to showcase regional accents on television.
Greater Manchester is set to see the return of secondary school drama Waterloo Road, as well as continue production of the daily lifestyle programme Morning Live. Parklife 2022 is set to be aired across Radio 1Xtra from Heaton Park, and Philharmonic Orchestra concerts are to come from cities across the country, including Leeds, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent, Kendal, Blackburn, Nottingham, Salford and Manchester.
The Weakest Link, Blankety Blank, A Question of Sport, Children in Need and Comic Relief are all to come from MediaCityUK in Salford, along with 60% of Radio 6Music.
The corporation’s biggest push in the North is the beginning of separate continuity between programming on BBC television. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already receive their own continuity announcements across the network, but the move would split England into two separate continuity lines. It has not yet been confirmed which transmitters will broadcast these frequencies in which areas.
The BBC Annual Plan is released annually and sets out the corporations goals for the coming year, but dates and locations are subject to change due to different circumstances. Notably missing from this year’s plan is the creation of six peak-time local radio services, in cities such as Bradford, Sunderland and Wolverhampton, which was included in the Annual Plan for 2021/22.
Closing his foreword, Tim Davie mentioned his anticipation for the BBC’s centenary in October, as the corporation celebrates “100 years of informing, educating and entertaining the UK and the world”.