Graeme Brown: How are you going to ensure more BBC activity in the Midlands?
Joe Godwin: There are different ways you can do it. It is complicated by the current situation - we have had a flat licence fee.
Having moved up to Salford with the children's division, where I moved and the whole department moved, that was five or six years ago when there was a different economic environment and a different time in terms of BBC resources.
But we have had a flat licence fee. I am being what I would call realistic but optimistic. I wouldn't have come here and given up a fantastic job with children's if I wasn't optimistic.
The reason I came to do this job is because I want this place to be fantastic but my approach has to be, partly because of the economics and partly because it is how big operations work, persuade, influence, build the buzz, which generates the confidence which I think will evolve activity.
GB: Birmingham is calling for a major increase in investment from the BBC. The BBC doesn't seem to agree – as the director of BBC Birmingham, where do you sit?
JG: Where I sit is trying to be realistic about it.
One of my biggest problems has been not getting the credit for what we do, which is a huge amount. There's the Archers, Asian Network, lots of stuff with Radio 2 and I know people get sniffy about daytime drama but actually BBC Birmingham has always been famous about daytime TV.
A big part of my job is going round all the different divisions of the BBC to encourage and look at what we can do to build what we have got because in a flat BBC licence fee we are not able to spend billions of pounds creating new divisions to move here, it is about building on things like drama, television, radio drama, the Asian Network and the digital innovation unit.
GB: You have outlined spending rises which will mean £125 million a year invested by the BBC in the Midlands, which is a return of 13 per cent. Are you trying to get to somewhere like the 50 per cent the Post campaign is calling for?
JG: I don't necessarily think what you are asking for is achievable given that we are not just about making stuff in the regions of the UK to satisfy those regions.
Licence fee payers here come top of all polls in terms of satisfaction because they appreciate they get enough value from the London-produced, the Scotland-produced, things like Doctor Who which is made in Wales.
You don't have to make it here. There is no suggestion we have to make Doctor Who here for people to enjoy it. I think those proportions of spend would have to take that into account.
You also have to be realistic about flat funding but look for the opportunities to increase activity.
GB: I agree, but as an organisation that spends £5 billion a year, over two, three or five years there will be areas of opportunity for things to be restructured. I am saying when that happens, the BBC's question should be ‘how do we get this into Birmingham?' Do you agree?
JG: That is what I think and that is my job but if you are the director of BBC Scotland, the director of Northern Ireland or the head of programmes in the North East would thing the same.
I think it is about me, with my director of BBC Birmingham hat on, but also you and people in the city, the city council, the LEP, making the case for Birmingham. It has got to be a partnership to make that case because there are 20 other people around the country making the case.
GB: A return of 8.5 per cent is where we were, 13 per cent is where we are going. Is that because 8.5 per cent is unfair and 13 is fair? Director general Tony Hall said things weren't right before – does he think they are now?
JG: We acknowledged that something needed to be done in Birmingham and that is why he came here 18 months ago and him, me and Peter Salmon (former head of BBC England) have done a lot of work in the city.
What we have done in the space of a year is nearly doubled the amount that we are spending.
With a flat licence fee, that is in effect, with inflation, a cut in funding, so that is quite an achievement. That won't be the end of it, but it is about evolving.
GB: You are advertising new HR jobs – what is it going to look like in The Mailbox in the short-term?
JG: We are about to start advertising for about 100 new roles from the HR centre.
I know people have said ‘well that is HR, it is not production' but to make BBC Birmingham a sustainable, significant BBC base, you have to have all the component parts that make a proper BBC regional HQ – that is some radio, some television, some online, but also some core BBC activity.
This will bring people from all over the country, from Inverness and Truro, here to Birmingham.
What you will see if you come back at Christmas is that this building will have gone from having a lot of empty spaces in it, from some decisions made a few years ago, and become a lot fuller.
GB: What are the jobs being advertised?
JG: We are starting to advertise for over 100 roles at our new HR service centre. The jobs are at a variety of levels from HR administrators, HR systems advisers and team leaders.
The jobs will open for application between now and September, with start dates over the next six months.
We'll be holding six assessment events here at The Mailbox this summer to find the best candidates for these roles. People just need to search for the BBC careers site online. Here candidates can register their interest and get alerts as well as apply for jobs that have already been advertised.
Pictures: BBC in the Midlands
GB: The cynic in me says that a lot of the £125 million you will be spending will go on transporting people from Salford and London – reassure our readers that is not the case.
JG: That would be a tiny part of it. I can assure you that of that figure, certainly for The Academy, it is a tiny percentage of a per cent of that figure. Most of that is about building infrastructure, the people who work here, our engineering and technical people, the salaries and the investment in content.
GB: Our view is that 50 per cent should be returned to this region.
JG: I understand the logic of that. I think there is a couple of questions. One is that lots of people living in the Midlands get lots of value from things made in, for example, London or Cardiff.
Portrayal of the Midlands is of real value. If something portrays Birmingham and the West Midlands to the UK but is make in Timbuktu I don't think that matters because that portrayal is what you get.
Peaky Blinders has had an effect on the self esteem of young people in the region who for too long haven't heard the voices of people from the Midlands.
Putting the Midlands in the public mind is hugely important.
GB: But what if Peaky Blinders wasn't there? Where would the Brummie voices be then? I would say the Midlands is the part of the BBC that is least represented on its airwaves?
JG: I think it comes and goes in all regions. I have lived in lots of parts of the UK. There is Peaky Blinders and I am hoping there will be more Peaky Blinders.
In terms of attracting more, it is a lot about confidence.
But it won't just be about the BBC – Sky, ITV and independent producers have a part to play too."
GB: I refuse to believe prime-time television cannot be made in the Midlands – do you agree?
JG: I agree you can make good television here as much as anywhere else, the problem is there are 97 other people around the UK thinking the same. It is not just about the BBC but about local markets being joined up and making it easy and attractive for people to do so."
GB: It remains the case that the BBC spends billions in London and in my opinion it is too London-centric still. Wouldn't you agree that more operations could be moved out of London?
JG: I think it is really complicated in a time of flat and decreasing income to say, like with moves to Salford and Bristol and Scotland and Wales and other places, that that is going to happen. I think it is really tricky in strained economic times. There are huge costs involved and huge human costs and it is not a thing to do at times of constrained income.
GB: The thing is, unless something fundamental happens, which in my opinion means prime-time production or something massive like moving digital here, then we are never going to make the kind of strides people in Birmingham want. I get a sense you don't think that is feasible.
JG: I think you are being defeatist about it. I think it is really important that you count the pounds that the BBC spends and I think we can do more of that, either it is Peaky Blinders or Danny and the Human Zoo, both of which have been filmed round here and will be.
It is partly my job to keep the conversation going and to make sure that nobody can have a conversation in London about the strategy going forward without the word "Birmingham" passing someone's lips and it is an evolving and emerging story because to be honest it is a bit of a fresh start. There was a bit of a period where we probably didn't give enough focus to BBC Birmingham which we should have done.
But if people want millions of pounds of extra stuff here then they have to say to the Government that they want the BBC to be given extra resources.