The BBC’s lack of backing for the Midlands is costing the local economy an estimated £400 million of much-needed investment every year, according to campaigners.
A new study has revealed that even though the region pays more than anywhere else in total licence fees, it receives back by far the least expenditure from the corporation – a situation described as an “absolute scandal”.
The BBC claims that for every £1 of licence fee money spent about £2 is returned to the surrounding economy – meaning while the region enjoyed a return of about £199 million last year, that would have been £950 million if the corporation invested the same as other regions.
Midland viewers pay £912.3 million in licence fees each year – but the BBC spends just £100 million here from a total budget of £4.1 billion.
According to the Campaign for Regional Broadcasting Midlands (CRBM), if spending in the region reflected the average BBC spend across the UK it would be investing £485 million each year.
Despite a BBC pledge to invest more in the regions, the corporation in Birmingham has suffered cuts in recent years, including the prized factual TV programming unit at the Mailbox moving to Bristol and the Asian Network being scaled back.
Politicians and creative sector leaders in Birmingham have hit out at the level of expenditure – which they expect to fall again this year – and believe there should be a better return for the region.
Campaign chairman Mike Bradley said: “I don’t know of any organisation other than the BBC that gets money in this way without any expectation that it will invest where it gets money from.
“This is the biggest area in terms of population, and the biggest in terms of how much money it puts into the BBC.
“This is an absolute scandal, and as bad as today’s figures are it is only getting worse.
“The licence fee is a tax that we are required to pay, but it is the only tax which is not expected to fairly benefit the regions that pay into it.
“When we pay PAYE in the West Midlands we are paying for schools and hospitals in the West Midlands, whereas the BBC does not offer a fair proportion.”
The West Midlands has seen its contribution to the BBC fall away in the past decade since Pebble Mill was closed in 2004.
The corporation opened its Drama Village in Selly Oak in 2005, but it does not have a network television studio.
Indeed, the Midlands – which includes the West and East Midlands, as well as the East of England – is the only BBC region not to have a network television studio contributing towards the BBC, according to the campaign.
The BBC raises about £5.1 billion a year, of which about £3.6 billion is from licence fee-payers.
The corporation produced a report called The Economic Value of the BBC in January which showed that it returned £391 million in the north, £699 million in the south and £5.65 billion in London compared to the £199 million it returned to the Midlands.
The report also showed that in terms of expenditure, the West Midlands suffered the biggest fall in the two years to 2012, at 21.7 per cent.
Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Selly Oak, said recent BBC policy had ignored the West Midlands.
He said: “It is the BBC’s fault because the previous director general in particular decided to spend its resources in Cardiff, Manchester, Bristol and London and left us like a doughnut in the middle, but it is our fault in that we need to make a stronger case.
“We need to show that digital media development in Birmingham and the Midlands really is strong and Gisela Stuart, Richard Burden and myself have been working on this.”
He added: “We are trying to demonstrate that there is huge potential, but the BBC has got to make a reasonable contribution.”
A BBC spokesman said the Midlands remained an important part of the BBC production landscape.
She said: “There is a substantial network drama base in Birmingham.
“Viewers have just enjoyed Father Brown on BBC One and the recently filmed WPC 56 started on BBC One last week. In addition Doctors has grown from 21 hours in 2000 to 115.5 hours for series 13 in 2011.
“The iconic radio drama The Archers is made at the Mailbox in Birmingham and Ambridge Extra has been re-commissioned by BBC Radio 4 Extra.
“These two productions alone represent a significant investment to radio drama in the region.
"The BBC’s 39 local radio stations, 42 online sites and England’s 12 television regions are all run by a headquarters team which is based in Birmingham alongside the BBC England’s News and Sport online team.
“BBC WM is based in Birmingham alongside BBC Midlands Today, and regional programmes including Inside Out, The Sunday Politics Show as well as the online site for Birmingham and the Black Country.”
She added that the Asian Network is co-located in Birmingham and across the BBC in the Midlands there are seven other local radio bases.