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MPs' fury as BBC plans to pull out of city
A Bradford MP was today due to lobby BBC chairman Lord Patten after the broadcaster revealed it will close its Bradford operations at the National Media Museum in a cost-cutting cull and relinquish its control of the big screen in Centenary Square.
Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe yesterday said he would call on the corporation boss to reverse a decision to close the multimedia facility, which doubles as a ‘live exhibition’ in the museum, as Lord Patten faces questions from MPs over the Jimmy Savile saga during a culture, media and sport select committee at Westminster.
The corporation confirmed it will close its Bradford studio, which is home to staff from BBC Radio Leeds and the BBC Asian Network, to “save significant recurring costs” next March.
A spokesman said there would be no job losses and the BBC remains “committed to fully representing Bradford”, but Mr Sutcliffe said the closure would mean Bradford is the “largest city in the country” not to have a presence from the broadcaster.
“Bradford is getting a raw deal, I think it’ll definitely have an impact on how it can cover stories in the city,” Mr Sutcliffe said.
“I have written to the BBC urging them to keep the studio open. It’s got a long-standing history in Bradford – there used to be a studio in City Hall.
“But it’s also an important part of the Media Museum and it would be sad for the BBC not to be represented there.
“I’ll be speaking to Lord Patten and urging him to reconsider this decision.”
Bradford West MP George Galloway said he would be joining Mr Sutcliffe in urging the BBC to keep the site open.
“This is completely unacceptable. The cuts should come from the top.
“I will be joining other MPs in the area to ensure the catastrophic decision is not implemented.”
The facility in the media museum, which was opened by then BBC director general Greg Dyke in 2003, is part of its £3 million Experience TV exhibition, which allows visitors to watch journalists producing material for broadcast on local and national radio and television.
The studio also has a television interview point, which is used by the BBC, with video editing equipment and an observable radio studio.
A BBC spokesman said it was committed to reducing the size of its property estate to save “significant recurring costs”.
“As such, the Bradford studio will close at the end of March 2013,” he added. “The BBC remains committed to fully representing Bradford in our output. The BBC in Yorkshire is piloting new technology to cover the region including mobile broadcasting capability.”
Earlier this month the Telegraph & Argus reported how the BBC gifted its collection of almost 1,000 historical objects to the museum as part of its celebrations to mark the broadcaster’s 90th anniversary.
The collection tells the story of British broadcasting, and specifically the BBC, from its earliest pioneering days in the 1920s up to the present day.
A spokesman for the National Media Museum confirmed the studio was part of its Experience TV gallery, which opened in 2006, giving visitors an “insight into the workings of a modern radio studio”.
“Over the past six years there have been considerable changes in the way regional broadcasting has been delivered and we now have an opportunity to think about the future use of this space,” she said.
“The BBC will continue to be highlighted within the museum thanks to the BBC Heritage Collection we acquired earlier this month. The closure of the studio will not have any financial implications on the programme of events and activities.”
The BBC has also confirmed it will withdraw its involvement in ‘big screens’ across the country, including one in Bradford city centre, to save £1.4 million a year.
But David Wilson, director of Bradford City of Film, last night told the Telegraph & Argus the city’s screen, which first started broadcasting in 2005, will not be switched off.
The Bradford Council-owned screen shows live events the BBC holds the rights to, as well as a rolling stream of coverage provided by the broadcaster, but that deal will end next March.
Mr Wilson said a meeting was being held today with the other 22 ‘big screen’ cities across the country about the future, but said discussions were taking place in Bradford about “new models” for the screen.
“We definitely will not be switching it off,” he said.
“We will be looking at all options – for example, working with Bradford University to discuss students providing content or working with other broadcasters. We will also be able to show free-to-air BBC content.
“It is not the case that at the end of the year we will be switching it off, but there will be a new model in place.”
Caroline Thomson, BBC chief operating officer, said staffing and production for the ‘big screens’ costs the broadcaster £1.4 million a year and the budget for its operations division, which the scheme comes under, is being cut by 25 per cent.