Please, BBC, base more of your staff in East Anglia – the forgotten corner of England
PUBLISHED: 15:30 16 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:23 17 January 2020
An open letter to BBC director-general Tony Hall... with a rail ticket from Liverpool Street tucked in the envelope
Dear Lord Hall
It was encouraging to read about plans to base two thirds of BBC staff outside London by 2027. (It's currently about 50%, I understand.)
Good news, then, that the Beeb will open a new "tech hub" in Newcastle (though the important thing is always quality content and not simply whizzy software).
However, I don't wish to rain on your parade, but this vision doesn't extend far enough. Not nearly.
As well as this major prize for Tyneside, investment is earmarked for Bristol and Salford (ie, Greater Manchester). Might some crumbs fall to the provinces from these metropolitan tables?
For too long we've felt East Anglia has been surgically removed from the road atlases, and wiped from the sat-navs, of the UK's decision-makers. To many of them, it seems East Anglia is Cambridge (the seat of learning, with its associated industries, is hardly representative), chic Southwold, and trendy north Norfolk with its weekend boltholes.
But those places - lovely as they are - aren't even 15% of the story.
Our local BBC TV services and radio stations do a fantastic job on tight budgets, but we need more Beeb muscle here - to champion our skills (we can be as innovative as Geordies!), to reflect our lives in the East and to highlight what we need.
With its public service remit (and what a precious jewel that is) the corporation has the ability and reach to further our cause.
Develop a significant BBC presence in East Anglia and our successes, potential and challenges will be spoken about at the supper-parties of Kensington and Camden and reach the ears of the London-based power-brokers. (All right, a cheap generalisation about those supper-parties, but you know what I mean.) That's the way things will improve for us - by gaining the support of the influential.
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We need promises to be fulfilled to give our schools the funding equality they deserve. Give them what London schools have enjoyed, for instance, and the nation will see our talent shine.
I don't want the countryside scarred by the building of the first motorway in Suffolk and Norfolk, but we can surely do more to make our roads work for us and unshackle entrepreneurial spirit.
Some of our rail services (the East Suffolk line; Ipswich to Cambridge; Ipswich to Felixstowe) are disgraceful. It is time Government became hands-on, identified the problems and remedied them. A fraction of the billions destined for High Speed 2 would, you'd expect, solve many of East Anglia's railway woes.
The potholes in many of our roads are dangerous beyond belief for cyclists and motorbike riders - and this during a winter that might be wet but has been short of ice and snow. Those with clout should be asking why.
We need help to develop an imaginative on-demand public transport network to keep rural East Anglia "open".
The village where I live, less than 15 miles from Ipswich, has a weekday bus service that offers little flexibility for those going to work or college. You'd have to finish work bang on 5.30pm in the county town and hotfoot it pretty sharpish to catch the last bus home.
We have nothing on a Sunday. I've spent a fair bit of time recently in the London borough of Bromley and genuinely did a double-take at seeing buses moving on a Sunday.
UK life grows increasingly urbanised. Those running the country must be shown what would be at risk if the trend continues. They must allocate more resources to stop the drain of services and labour.
We deserve opportunities. I bet our universities and colleges can produce the kind of software engineers, designers, product developers and data scientists the BBC wants in Newcastle.
We just want one of those cliched level playing fields. The BBC could help us achieve parity by shining a light on the East, its dreams and potential.
We've got much to gain - and so, too, has the corporation in its uncertain relationship with the Prime Minister and his Government.
Politically, East Anglia is pretty much a sea of blue. If the BBC could boost the region's profile and fortunes - and what better way to remind us all of its priceless value? - it might well make valuable allies of East Anglia's Conservative MPs.
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