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The BBC needs a digital revolution... and Birmingham is the place

Agenda editor Graeme Brown, who has written a manifesto for the BBC in Birmingham, explains why it is the only place for a broadcaster of the future

A scene from People Like Us filmed in Chelmsley Wood.
A scene from People Like Us filmed in Chelmsley Wood.

When generations to come look into the history of broadcasting, they might just point to this as a monumental week.

At the moment, it might have only been noted by Family Guy and Sun, Sea and Suspicious Parents fans, but I suspect time will tell a different story.

BBC Three has become the first mainstream television channel to close up shop on the box and focus entirely online.

It’s not been popular – it has been seen as a cost-cutting measure and was subject to a 300,000-strong petition – but anyone with a tertiary understanding of viewing habits could see why.

In time, those petitioners will be forgotten like those who opposed the smoking ban – history is against them. Soon enough, all channels will operate this way.

A Birmingham BBC manifesto: Our city is the answer to your problems

The truth is the BBC had to act. There is a generation of people who think television is old hat and without engaging them it is en route to oblivion.

Already, the broadcaster has issues speaking to different regional and minority groups from Broadcasting House, but this is an even more fundamental problem.

Netflix and Amazon Prime have changed broadcasting for many under the age of 25. They don’t want to be told what they can watch and when. Whether it is 20-second snippet of news on their mobile phone or the BBC’s entire archive of Shakespeare plays on widescreen, they expect entertainment to come to them, not the other way round. And they know where else to go if they aren’t impressed.

It is a cataclysmic change and only only a significant shift can address.

BBC Three can only be the start. Digital is the future and linear television will seem like one of the options, not the only route to consumption.

The Beeb knows this – the work of its digital “guerrillas” in Digbeth is all part of that, but it is behind the game.

It is a fortunate turn of fate that its requirements – digital savvy, youth, diversity, engineering – read like a Marketing Birmingham brochure.

Close to half of our populace is under-25, this is the seat of the Industrial Revolution, home to hundreds of cultures and held back by none of the “it’s always been done this way”.

What’s more, consensus has been reached that the BBC has a Midland problem – only last week a powerful Commons committee pointed to our campaign calling for a fair share of BBC funding as a priority for the broadcaster.

It spends a fraction here it does in other regions and it needs to be addressed.

So bring on the revolution. Let’s return our state broadcaster to the cutting-edge, and let’s do it in the youngest city in Europe.



Graeme Brown
Editor (Agenda and Business)
Enda Mullen
Business Reporter
Tamlyn Jones
Business Reporter
Neil Elkes
Local Government Correspondent
Emma McKinney
Education Correspondent
Ben Hurst
News Editor
Jonathan Walker
Political Editor