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BBC adopts guerrilla tactics to put Birmingham at heart of modernisation drive

BBC adopts guerrilla tactics to put Birmingham at heart of modernisation drive

🕔25.Mar 2014

Birmingham is at the centre of a BBC modernisation drive as the corporation reinvents itself for the digital age in an effort to appeal to a younger and more diverse audience.

A three-year partnership with the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP will see a six-strong BBC digital content innovation team based at the Fazeley Studios.

The new unit will be called the Guerrilla Group and have a remit to “produce experimental new forms of content for programmes and services, using the technology and approaches of the future”.

The initiative was announced by James Purnell, Director of Strategy and Digital at the BBC.

Mr Purnell told the ReThink Media conference at Birmingham City University that the BBC was committed to using Birmingham as a centre for training. All future induction courses for staff will be held in the city..

The training centre commitment and Guerrilla Group project is worth £23 million and 80 jobs.

Mr Purnell added: “Innovation at the BBC has never stood still, from the birth of radio and TV, to the first steps into the digital world with BBC Micro Computers and Ceefax, through to more recent services like BBC iPlayer.

“The Guerrilla Group will help us explore the next-generation of BBC content and services, finding new and creative ways to tell our stories to future audiences.”

His announcement marks the first fruits of a determined campaign by GBSLEP and the city council to persuade the BBC to invest in Birmingham. Efforts to underpin the corporation’s presence started when the BBC began transferring staff from London to Media City in Salford, triggering fears that the Mailbox studios in Birmingham city centre might be at risk.

Building on BBC Director-General Tony Hall’s creative vision for the BBC in the Midlands, outlined in November , the Guerrilla Group will operate at the heart of Birmingham’s creative community.

The BBC is working with the Creative City Partnership to provide space for the team alongside some of the city’s most dynamic and creative SMEs.

Mr Purnell said the Guerrilla Group would act as a source of digital creativity at the BBC and as a catalyst for innovation in Birmingham.

The team will work with the BBC’s R&D department, Connected Studio, BBC brands and audience members, as well as partnering and collaborating with a range of organisations, start-ups and SMEs.

This will help transform Birmingham into a vibrant new home for digital content businesses, to re-affirm the city’s status as a major driver of the UK economy, and to make the area a natural home for innovators, entrepreneurs and wealth creators, Mr Purnell added.

Tommy Nagra, Head of Business Development, BBC Birmingham, said: “This is a tremendous boost for our plans for the BBC in Birmingham and demonstrates our commitment to developing something new, innovative and future facing. Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, making it the ideal new home and testing ground for our brand new digital content innovation team.”

Anita Bhalla, GBSLEP board director, said: “The clarification of Birmingham being the base for the BBC’s digital and training future shows we are going in the right direction.

“There is, of course, much more ground to make up but we have been working to present our case to the BBC and show how our creative, digital and cultural industries can benefit the corporation.

“The Guerrilla Group concept is an exciting one which is, once again, a demonstration of our strengths.

“Over the next 20 years, the way the BBC packages and produces its product will change beyond recognition and Birmingham will be at the cutting edge of this.

“The training will also provide a huge boost to the city, not least because we will have more than 1,000 BBC staff from all over the country coming to the Mailbox – that’s more than 1,000 potential ambassadors who will be able to see just how vibrant and dynamic Birmingham is.

“We will continue to work with the BBC and, at the same time, continue to encourage the development of these key sectors which have such an important part to play in our economic future.”

RJF Public Affairs is working for BCU Media on its #RethinkMedia conference. The BBC’s announcement was made at the pre-conference reception. For more information on #RethinkMedia and the Media Power 20 launch today, please visit:

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