Why Costa is the real winner at Media City

A refreshing backdrop for Media City UK.

A refreshing backdrop for Media City UK.

It has been just over two years since the start of the march to the Media City UK in Salford. The first BBC departments moved from London to the North West in February 2010, followed by the remaining departments in the following months and years. The BBC move is complete and Media City now homes ITV Granada, The University of Salford, children’s programmes and soon the new Coronation Street. But from what I can gather, a chain of a popular coffee shop franchise is the real winner.

Whenever you think of Media City, you don’t automatically consider the huge scale the project has actually been. Many might think the ‘beeb’ paid a few builders to erect some fancy buildings and moved in within a few months. Wrong. The site, on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, had been derelict since the closure of the dockyards in the early 1980’s. Peel Holdings bought the plot of land and did no more. In 2003, the BBC announced it was considering moving crucial departments away from London to Manchester. Talks began about constructing a new “media village” in collaboration with ITV Granada, the North West’s strand of ITV. A number of possible new sites were considered, but it was Salford Quays was chosen. The area, over years, has seen considerable development; The Lowry Centre, office blocks and museums had already started to revive the former industrial setting.

The move to Salford was confirmed in 2006. Around 1,800 jobs would be relocated, according to the then BBC Director General, Mark Thompson. Construction on the new site began in 2007, with the announcement in the same year that departments including BBC Sport, CBBC, Radio Five Live and BBC Breakfast would all make the journey to the northern capital.

I have had the pleasure of visiting the attractive site. Media City UK boasts buildings that house the production departments of key BBC programmes, whilst The Studios contain several high definition studios and the BBC’s Philharmonic Orchestra. Other buildings include modern apartments, flexible office space for media and creative industries and The Orange Tower which houses The University of Salford and ITV. The site is very impressive. The architecture and abstract design of the buildings is quite an eye-opener. The ‘airy’ and open feel of the village is very different to the brick and mortar that once occupied Oxford Road in the heart of Manchester. The “media village” feels iconic and a part of new media history. But it is easy to see why people don’t appreciate the site.

Some residents have objected to the site being built, whilst others have relished in its good fortune. Some jobs have been created over the years including in the construction of the site, whilst inside the companies that now occupy the buildings, jobs have been offered for local residents and apprenticeship schemes to aid to the young members of the Salford community. However, a recent committee hearing told how just 39 new recruits out of 350 jobs going were from the Salford area. Whilst this news may cause an upset between the media complex and local residents, it is clear that Media City is more than just a hub housing some of the nations best known programmes. It is a vital organ for the regenerated Salford community. Since it’s construction and opening, Media City has brought a new wave of tourists to the former docks; the sector seeing a boost in visitors for the seventh consecutive year. But whilst the construction has been fairly speedy, the cost of relocating existing staff has angered licence fee payers.

The recent closure of the BBC’s iconic Television Centre was reported as being a part of huge savings for corporation. Departments including BBC News and radio moved to the New Broadcasting House in Central London, whilst other departments had moved to Salford, Glasgow and Cardiff, amongst other areas. The Public Accounts Committee recently grilled BBC executives about the cost of the relocation for the core departments. The top bosses at the beeb continue to insist that the entire project came in under budget, but there are still questions over the relocation packages offered to staff, some of which had to move home from London to the Northern region. BBC trustee Anthony Fry admitted that there would be “raised eyebrows” over the pay of £1million to just 11 staff, whilst the cost of relocation for around 900 staff had nearly toppled £25million. Whilst it may have been a cheaper option to move North, it is clear that the cost to the licence fee payer is great and it’s unlikely that the packages paid out will be repaid in a couple of years.

Tony Morris and Lucy Meacock look above Media City in the Granada Reports studio.

Tony Morris and Lucy Meacock look above Media City in the Granada Reports studio.

But what about programmes themselves. Do they feel any different? No. Whilst ITV’s Granada Reports is now broadcast from a new state of the art studio in The Orange Tower, the programme still feels like it should – a regional news programme, with a live backdrop of the piazza and canal at Media City. Production at ITV is completed on the seven floors that the corporation occupies in the building, so content is unlikely to feel any different. Even the new Coronation Street set, currently being built within the complex is an exact replica of the former set in Quay Street. Viewers won’t notice a difference. Over at the BBC, just a few hundred yards away, the story is very much the same. BBC Sport broadcasts from a new newsroom with no onscreen indication that it is close to Manchester city centre. Nor does Match of the Day, broadcast from Quay House, which feels more like an evolution of the previous theme. CBBC and Cbeebies feel identical to the previous studios, as does BBC Breakfast which could still be confused as to being in London. As for radio, surely nobody would notice the difference? For viewers, content remains the same, high quality broadcasts that have always been provided. The base for the actual production teams is now just in a new location. Costing less than operating from the heart of London. Good move.

The BBC has made a good deal in suggesting a “media village” collaboration because it’s one of a kind in the UK. The cost has run into millions and to the average viewer they won’t even notice the difference. Bu the setting, atmosphere and entire surroundings of Media City feel pleasant and vibrant. Media and creativity at its highest level. The build probably has been worth it. Even on my first visit I was taken back by the grand scale of the buildings and the knowledge of what was being produced and what will be produced in the future. Media City is more than what meets the eye. It is a community bridge and an environment for learning and development. What is certain is that thousands of tourists will continue to flock, year in year out, to visit the complex.

Costa Coffee hosts tourists and staff alike.

Costa Coffee hosts tourists and staff alike.

But out of all of the names who are on site, there is only one winner. Costa Coffee. A small branch squeezed between the BBC buildings and The Studios. For the visitors, studio audiences and tourists, the branch is ideal for a snack or drink to break the day. For the staff of Media City, including journalists, presenters and production staff, the shop is a way of getting out of the office for a light refreshment. And on the odd occasion, you may just spot some famous faces having a coffee before filming. An ideal location for an ideal chain to bring tourists, enthusiasts and professionals all into one place. A mirror reflection of what Media City UK stands for.

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Axed: TV favourite victim of budget cuts

Dropped: Tony Livesey has been the regular sports face of North West Tonight since 2006.

Dropped: Tony Livesey has been the regular sports face of North West Tonight since 2006.

One of the North West’s most popular presenters is being dropped in order to make savings. Tony Livesey has been at the helm of the sports desk on the BBC’s North West Tonight programme for seven years, and, despite his first appearance on the programme, he has become a firm favourite amongst viewers.

The announcement was made public during Sunday’s edition of ‘Gordon Burns’ on Radio Manchester, when Livesey, who was a guest, confirmed he was to leave at the end of next month. He told the programme that he was leaving to pursue a new project as the “face of current affairs” with BBC One magazine programme, The One Show. Admitting it was time to move on, the Manchester Evening News has reported that the sports presenter’s contract was not offered for renewal. In an email leaked to the evening paper, Livesey thanks his colleagues and confirms he will depart at the end of July. In it, he says “I’ve really enjoyed my time here, more I think than you can imagine and, who knows, one day I may be back” adding that management told him his contract would not be renewed.

Tony will not leave the nightly news programme altogether. It has been confirmed that he will remain a part of the North West Tonight team, deputising main host Roger Johnson. Speaking of his axe on Sunday, Livesey told Gordon Burns that it brought an end to the “days of me, you and Ranvir“; Gordon retired in 2011, whilst Ranvir Singh left to front ITV’s Daybreak less than six months later. Speaking of the presenter swap-around, Livesey likened the red sofa of North West Tonight to the red chair on The Graham Norton Show where contestants are “tipped” over the back.

The regular sports presenter had an initial rocky start to his North West Tonight career, with viewers emailing that he must look tidier. He also admitted he got sent a number of ties in the post, in reference to his apparent “scruffy” and tieless appearance; On his first day he was even mistaken for someone who was in the building for an audition rather than the main presenter. Despite this, Tony has won round the viewers with his quirky humour, passion and knowledge for sport and his love for Burnley FC.

North West Tonight’s current editor, Michelle Mayman, thanked Tony for his work, adding she was pleased he was staying in touch with the programme. She also said “he has done a brilliant job since he joined the team in 2006, bringing his good humour and warmth to proceedings. It has been great fun working with him, and we wish him all the very best.”

The teatime favourite will leave his current role on July 26th but will return to host the main programme on occasion. Livesey will still present his Radio 5 Live Weekend Breakfast Show and his new role as editor of current affairs at The One Show will begin in August.

Weather presenter Dianne Oxberry remains the longest serving member of the North West Tonight on-air team, having joined in 1995.

A fond farewell to Television Centre ?

Lights out at 'TVC'.

Lights out at ‘TVC’.

It is hard to imagine but at one point in time the majority of the BBC’s central departments such as news, sport and drama were all based under one iconic roof – Television Centre. Now, however, after 54 years at the heart of West London and as a symbol of the BBC, the building is to close, being sold for redevelopment. When I first heard the news, I admit I did question the decision. Why would the national broadcaster of Great Britain close one of the most recognisable buildings in the country? However, since that decision, the BBC has changed and now the corporation has based various departments around the UK.

Last Sunday saw the final BBC News bulletin come live from Television Centre, before they themselves relocated to a new home. But it isn’t the first relocation. Departments such as drama and comedy have moved to locations including Cardiff and Glasgow, whilst the biggest relocation of BBC departments has been to the new Media City UK in Salford, where BBC Sport, Breakfast and CBBC (amongst others) are now based. I can say I have had the pleasure of visiting Media City and it is a brilliant working environment to be a part of. The modern surroundings, leisure attractions and the Manchester Ship Canal offer an unrivalled media environment.

The new buildings are large, modern and a reflection of the new era for the BBC. The open plan and ‘airy’ atmosphere in Quay House allow BBC Sport, BBC Breakfast, Radio 5 Live and other departments to work together in a building which offers excitement and evidence of the new digital era for media innovation. It is these new buildings and relocations which will be the new history of the BBC. Official figures already show that tourism in Salford is up for the seventh year on the row, with visitors travelling to see the new redevelopment.

It is the relocation of the broadcaster and indeed other media organisations which are transforming the media industry. Away from the London centric representation that has portrayed the BBC in the past, the corporation is now one which is based and created from all corners of the UK. Not only is money being saved for the corporation but new talent is being discovered from around the United Kingdom.

Departments such as BBC News will remain in London, at the new headquarters at New Broadcasting House, for obvious reasons. The selling of possibly the most iconic media building in the UK may lead you to ask where some of the programmes previously filmed at ‘TVC’ will be rehomed. Well, although the centre is being redeveloped and sold on, some of the larger TV studios will remain. The BBC, alongside other broadcasters and independent companies will be able to hire out or rent the studio – a cheaper alternative than owning the buildings than house the studios. This method of filming is already in place at “The Studios” in Salford where the BBC does not own studios for the likes of CBBC and Match of the Day. However, the BBC does have an increased stake than other broadcasters and companies, so that regular programmes can be permanently based and filmed.

So when I think back to the news that Television Centre will be closed, yes it will be sad to see the national broadcaster leave their iconic home. However, the next era of the BBC is to be created around the UK in new and plush working environments. But will any of these rival the iconic ring in West London? Only history will tell.