Walters backs bid to bring BBC commissioning to Midlands

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Julie Walters has backed a campaign calling on broadcasters to produce more television and radio content in the Midlands.

The Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands urges producers and television networks to turn the Midlands into a “place where

programmes are made and where ideas are conceived”, following what it claims has been a “gradual migration” away from the area.

Its focus is on calling for the BBC to create a centre of excellence in radio drama in the Midlands, and to “seek and employ Midlands-based talent both in front of and behind the camera”. It also calls on the Corporation to commission more drama from the region and to commit to spending a “sum commensurate with the size of our region”.

Walters, who is from Smethwick in the West Midlands, said: “I wholeheartedly support this campaign. There are many young, talented people in my home region who should not be overlooked by the BBC.”

The campaign has been set up by a group of people from the Midlands, comprising actors, writers and members of the public, many of whom came together in 2008 to protest at the BBC’s plans to close a drama village it operated there.

Midlands resident Mike Bradley is spearheading the campaign alongside actor Tracey Briggs.

Bradley said: “There is very little left of the BBC in the second largest city. And what is left is only by virtue of legacy commissions from years ago. Nothing new is coming here, the head count is about as low as it can go and apart from two small TV news studios, the BBC no longer operates any television studios in the entire Midlands region.”

Briggs added that, while the campaign’s first efforts are focused on the BBC, it aims to encourage all major UK broadcasters to create more work in the region.

“This is not just about the BBC. ITV has not wanted to make anything in our region since about 1997,” she said. “The BBC commissions independent production companies, and we would like it to commission from those in our region, as there is a lot of talent here.”

The campaign has been endorsed by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and Equity, which Briggs is a member of and which has its own campaign to see more content made in the nations and regions.

“It is important that the citizens of the Midlands region organise this campaign because it is not just about work for Equity members but about the visibility of our region on the national airwaves and a fair return to our region on the licence fee

we all have to pay,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said “there is a substantial network drama base in Birmingham”, and cited shows such as Father Brown, WPC 56 and Doctors as productions that were filmed there.

She said the drama slate in the Midlands had grown by more than £1 million last year, and added: “We hope to grow this further”.

The spokeswoman also said that The Archers and Ambridge Extra “represent a significant investment to radio drama in the region”, and added that the headquarters for the BBC’s 39 radio stations, 42 online sites and 12 television regions are all “run by a headquarters team in Birmingham”.

“In addition, the BBC invests a significant amount in regional-based independent production companies, such as Maverick,” she said.

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