It was June 2004 when the BBC’s move of several departments from London to the north west was first announced. The department I worked for (and still work for) was one of those highlighted.
In all that time though, it was never particularly clear who out the department would be moving – not helped by the team being enlarged and rebranded over that time. Three years later and we finally have clarity. The BBC’s central future media team (web, mobile and interactive TV) will be located in Salford from 2011. The director himself, Ashley Highfield, will be half based in Salford, half in London.
For those not moving, there’s the potential of redeployment (although how many will actually get that is another matter), or as a last resort, redundancy.
Which means there’s going to be a lot of people making some very tough decisions prior to 2009 when the deadline is for saying yay, or nay.
When all this was first announced, many people expected that, as someone hailing from the fair Manchester itself, I’d be one of the first in the queue. That has never been the case for me. I have worked in London since leaving university and have built up an emotional attachment here.
Busy may it be, I like the place. I love standing on Waterloo Bridge on an evening, watching the lights on the Thames towards Tower Hill, or turning round and seeing the wonderful sight of the Houses of Parliament. A great big wheel, or the BT Tower. Trafalgar Square with Nelson looking out across the city. Red buses and fantastically designed tube stations, be they on the late 1990s modern stylings of the Jubilee Line Extension or the 1930s joy of the Piccadilly Line. The red lights of the Croydon and Crystal Palace transmitters, seen from my living room. The mighty turbine hall of the Tate Modern. The beer, the pubs, the restaurants, the people, the friends I have, the home I live in.
Even on a purely work level, for me, it’s not clear cut. Fact of the matter is, in January I’ll have worked in the same BBC division for eight years – four and a half of it within Interactive TV. I’ve risen through the ranks in that time, and I’m currently working on a project which has huge importance to the corporation.
However at some point that project will end – indeed I’m only in it for one year. When I took it on, I did so thinking that the end point in October 2008 would be a good point to take a fresh look at what I do – maybe find some new challenges.
The question I had then was what would those challenges be – a move to another part of the same division perhaps? Return to the web and start thinking about different technologies with different people? And maybe a move to another division – maybe Journalism or the nice people at Audio and Music? A chance to work more multi-platform and to be closer to the people creating the content – helping drive the ambitions from a different standing point. Of course you can’t discount the option of leaving the BBC entirely – if the job was right.
Most of those options do actually mean staying in London. But then, what if Catherine and myself decide actually we want to go up North? Of course if I was still in the BBC at that point, I suspect it could be wrangled. And if we got up there and I wanted to move outside the BBC? Well like it or not, most of the industry will still be in London…
And back at work, a lot of people in the same boat. I suspect there will the beginnings of an exodus of people from now on it, and if it doesn’t become very difficult to recruit new staff, I’d be amazed. Who really wants to start a job knowing that in three years later, you will either have the option of being relocated or leaving?
All in all, it’s a difficult time with some difficult decisions to be made and some potentially big changes. The worst bit of course is that they’re big changes driven not by me, but by someone else in an office down the road. It happens all the time to many people. And it ain’t fun.