BBC English Regions
|TV transmitters||Terrestrial, cable and BBC UK regional TV on satellite|
|Radio stations||BBC Local Radio|
|Headquarters||The Mailbox, Birmingham|
|Regions||BBC North East and Cumbria
BBC North West
BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire
BBC East Midlands
BBC West Midlands
BBC South East
BBC South West
Controller, BBC English Regions
BBC English Regions is the division of the BBC responsible for local television, radio, web and teletext services in England, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It is one of the BBC's four 'Nations' – the others being BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland.
The division is made up of 12 separate regions. Many of the names of these regions are similar to those of the official government Regions of England, but the areas covered are often significantly different as they are determined by terrestrial transmission areas, not administrative boundaries.
The headquarters of BBC English Regions is at The Mailbox in Birmingham, with regional television centres in Manchester, Leeds, Hull, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Norwich, Bristol, London, Tunbridge Wells, Southampton and Plymouth, and local radio stations based at 43 locations across England.
The Four Regions
The current BBC English Regions division was the product of the controversial Broadcasting in the Seventies report – a radical review of the BBC's network radio and non-metropolitan broadcasting structure – published on 10 July 1969.
Before this the structure of regional broadcasting in England had remained virtually unchanged since the late 1920s, when the establishment of four regional radio transmission stations covering England had led to a regional structure on similar lines. BBC North was based in Manchester and covered the area from Cheshire and Sheffield northwards, BBC Midlands and East Anglia was based in Birmingham covering a swathe of central England from the Potteries to Norfolk, and BBC South and West was based in Bristol covering the area south and west of a line from Gloucester to Brighton. The London area, though it had regional transmission infrastructure of its own, produced only national programming and wasn't considered to be a region as it acted as the sustaining service for the other regions.
These regions (alongside the national regions BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland that performed a similar role outside England) were well-suited to delivering the pre-war BBC Regional Programme and the post-war BBC Home Service that replaced it. By the 1960s, though, the growth of television, the birth of the more locally-based ITV franchises in 1955 and the development of smaller BBC Local Radio stations (made possible by the development of FM radio) were making the structure look increasingly anachronistic.
Broadcasting in the Seventies
The effect of Broadcasting in the Seventies was to separate the two different roles of regional BBC offices into different organisations:
- The two major television channels BBC1 and BBC2 were to remain primarily national operations. To prevent this leading to total domination by London, three large Network Production Centres (NPC), each one having its own medium-size colour TV studio – BBC Bristol, BBC Birmingham and BBC Manchester – were established in the headquarters of the former regions, to produce programming for national broadcast across the entire United Kingdom.
Each of the production centres also had network radio studios (BBC Birmingham, for instance, producing The Archers) plus a small television news studio, the latter to enable local (opt out) programming.
- BBC English Regions was created to take on this other role of the former regions – the production of specifically local programming (mainly from small island sites) – through a new tier of eight much smaller regions described on page eight of the report as "the basic unit of English broadcasting outside London" and controlled from headquarters in the newly built Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham.
As a result of the latter, Plymouth-based BBC South West and Southampton-based BBC South were split from BBC West in Bristol; Norwich-based BBC East separated from BBC Midlands in Birmingham; a new smaller BBC North West was created from the existing Manchester-based region, with the old BBC North name being taken by the newly created region based in Leeds; and the existing Newcastle-based BBC North East separated from the old BBC North Region in this process.
These new regions produced local news programmes and opt-outs on television, but regional radio programming on the BBC Home Service ceased, replaced by the national Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4 and the growing number of local radio stations. The report stated that the local radio experiment, started in 1967 "has proved that there is a demand for local radio" and that the BBC should "put forward to the Postmaster General a provisional scheme for expanding our local network to about forty stations".
This structure has largely survived since the 1970s. Local news services were developed on Ceefax from 1997 and were extended onto the web in 1999. The decreasing costs of television production and improving technology also enabled the gradual development of even smaller regions. In 1991, BBC East Midlands was finally created in Nottingham, BBC London (separated from BBC South East) became a region in 2001 and BBC North was split into BBC Yorkshire and BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in 2004 – with the new millennium seeing several BBC regions moving into new premises. In the East, South and South West regions, sub-regional opt-outs during local news programmes have also been created (similar to those on ITV regional news programmes), based respectively in Cambridge, Oxford and Jersey.
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- Broadcasting in the Seventies was a document concerned mainly with radio reorganisation and funding – having only one and one half pages devoted to television and the regions (on pages 7 and 8) – where it had stated, back in 1969, that "in the longer term, as money permits, we would hope to set up further centres, with the one in the East Midlands as a first priority".
- "BBC South East – News". TV Ark. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
- "BBC – BBC buildings". Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
- Briggs, Asa (1961–1995). The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (Volumes I-V). Oxford University Press.
- British Broadcasting Corporation (1969). Broadcasting in the Seventies: The B.B.C.'s plan for network radio and non-metropolitan broadcasting. BBC. p. 14pp. ISBN 0-563-08562-2.