The BBC is preparing to relocate many high-profile national journalism roles from London to Leeds, sources at the broadcaster have told the Guardian, as part of a major push by new director general Tim Davie to move jobs outside the capital.
It is thought that Davie will unveil more of his plans in an all-staff meeting on Thursday morning, which is expected to see a large number of people currently based in the capital moved to offices in other parts of the UK.
The BBC declined to comment on the claims but a source at the broadcaster said “we’re committed to serving better those who pay for us”. There is speculation within the organisation that large parts of the corporation’s news output and some of its best-known radio programmes could be moved.
Davie has repeatedly made clear he wants more senior managers based outside London on a full-time basis, a position that aligns with the government’s insistence that it is committed to “levelling-up” the north of England and other parts of the UK.
If the BBC moves journalism jobs to Leeds it would help boost the media scene in West Yorkshire, with Channel 4 committed to a secondary base in Leeds city centre. Any BBC moves are likely to take place from 2022 onwards, with education reporters and staff covering underserved communities as part of the “original journalism unit” among those likely to make the move.
Although BBC staff would probably be offered relocation packages if their jobs move to Leeds, the experience of Channel 4 suggests many are unlikely to leave London, potentially creating job openings in Yorkshire. There is also political pressure to move more roles to Scotland.
Davie will address staff six months after he took the top job at the public broadcaster, facing the twin challenges of a hostile government and a rapid change in media consumption habits. Since taking the position he has introduced a new social media code of conduct designed to reduce news stories about the personal views of the broadcaster’s employees, targeted left-wing comedy shows that have angered the government and started a purge of high-earning managers.
Although Davie’s public commitment to representing the whole of Britain has helped him head off the imminent threat of decriminalisation of nonpayment of the licence fee by the Conservative government, his leadership has also had to deal with growing discontent from some BAME staff.