The threat to ITV's regional output

Good to read your piece on “Solving indies' regional puzzle” (Broadcast, 25.01.08). There is no single solution, as you point out, to the problem of creating and promoting sustainable regional production bases.

In commercial companies such as ITV, the tension between those who run the company and those who make the programmes is clear to see. However, ITV has (or had?) a clear advantage in its regional news infrastructure. So many of these well-known locations were once centres of excellence spawning profitable, quality non-news production, some of it made by independents, which made it to network; some were also the focus of network production in their own right.

Granada and Yorkshire continue to be high profile thanks to Coronation Street (pictured) and Emmerdale, but the investment which once produced vibrant production centres at companies such as Tyne Tees, Central, Anglia and Meridian has long gone. Without regional hubs built around resident regional broadcasters, is it any surprise that production talent migrates elsewhere (or leaves the industry altogether) and regional reputation is lost?

This year, ITV's news regions face yet another company-inflicted attack on their contribution to regional programme making. Eight of 17 regional flagship programmes are under threat as once again ITV seeks to work hand in hand with the regulator to find “the right business model” to fit today's industry.

If ITV gets its way will this strengthen the regional dimension? Not a chance.
Sharon Elliott
Communications officer, Bectu

Northern benefits
Here in Yorkshire we are fully behind The Insider's proposal to cut London production budgets in half and invest them across the UK! (Broadcast 1.2.08).

Although Yorkshire was one of the few regions where independent production went up in recent years (Pact figs 2006), we are in no doubt that the UK would be better served by a more diverse TV industry spread across the UK. We welcome the BBC's move of five departments to Salford and the recent announcement that a drama commissioner will also be based there.

The challenge for us is to ensure that the whole of the north benefits from such a move, and we will be looking for the BBC to work closely with us to ensure this.
Sally Joynson
Chief executive, Screen Yorkshire

BBC goes out - again
I was disappointed to read once again that a BBC studio-based programme is being recorded at commercial facilities - in this instance Lily Allen and Friends at Pinewood Studios.

The negative press about how many of the audience left early in the first show was factually incorrect, but as the studios are basically in the middle of nowhere, it is understandable some of the audience would have to leave early to get home.

This raises the question of why the BBC needs to outsource its studio bookings to competitive facilities. The answer, I gather, is that the studios at TV Centre are too expensive for BBC productions.

Does it make sense for the BBC to be spending licence fees on outside studios when that money should be ploughed back into BBC programming? I fail to see the logic in not offering realistic rates for the hire of its own facilities.
I would like to think a cash-strapped BBC would use every possible resource to keep costs down and, if necessary, charge commercial rates to non-BBC clients.
Julie Dawson
Communications director, Wired

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