THE BBC is to make what it is calling its "biggest investment in the North East of England for decades" as part of a new partnership with the region.

The corporation will spend at least £25m over the next five years right across the North East to fund network TV production, talent development and support for the creative sector.

The Northern Echo:

The announcement is part of a deal with local authorities in the North East, who will work with the BBC, and with independent producers, to invest in people, skills, and infrastructure to support the production industry in the region.

They will also provide funding via Northern Film + Media, the North East’s regional screen development agency, to boost the creative sector in the region.

Bosses say the partnership is part of the BBC’s commitment to do more across the UK by moving departments, commissioning power, and resources out of London.

The BBC’s North East plans announced today include:

• A new BBC Daytime & Early Peak factual series produced from the North East.

• A new creative partnership between BBC Three and BBC England to find and develop new factual TV ideas.

• Award-winning BBC One documentary series Ambulance will follow the region’s emergency staff on the frontline for two series.

• BBC Comedy will host a series of masterclasses and events across the North East to develop new talent and skills while Newcastle will be the BBC’s first City of Comedy and will host this year’s New Comedy Awards.

• BBC Radio 4 will bring one of the annual Reith Lectures to the North East later this year and record a new comedy series in the region.

In addition, the BBC will create 70 digital jobs based at a new tech hub in Newcastle.

The BBC, the authorities and Northern Film + Media will look for opportunities to grow relationships with local facilities as they develop across the region, such as the Northern Studios in Hartlepool, and the independent production sector, which has recently seen companies opening new offices across the North East, including in Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, said: “This is a really exciting day for the BBC and I hope for the whole of the North East too. I’m proud we’ve been able to partner with so many organisations from right across the region.

"And what’s clear is the ambition and determination to make the North East a major centre for the creative industries and we want to play an important part in making that happen.

"We want to see more BBC content coming from the North East and a BBC that’s much more active and visible in the region. It’s time to get on with that work.”

The Northern Echo:

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor said: “Depending on your generation, you'll remember The Likely Lads, When the Boat Comes In, or Byker Grove. Well, we need more TV filmed in the North East.

"Our region is stunning; from Bamburgh Castle, across the Tyne Bridge, past Durham Cathedral to the Transporter Bridge. It's by investing in our region that our talented writers, actors and technicians can put us on the map again.”

The Northern Echo:

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Our region has helped inspire screen legends like Ridley and Tony Scott in the past, and today remains a sought-after filming location for TV and film as well as a hotbed for animation.

"Thanks to our home-grown talent and facilities like the Northern Film and TV Studios – the only large-scale commercial and TV studios in the North East – there’s still a huge opportunity to grow this sector and its vital supply chain.

"This commitment by the BBC will help us develop these skills locally, raise aspirations and help all of those in the industry – from directors, producers and presenters to lighting and sound engineers, make-up artists and set designers – realise they can have a great career right here in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, Chair of North East Combined Authority and Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Today’s announcement is fantastic for the region as a whole and we are delighted to be working in partnership together with the BBC.

"I am confident that this will be a catalyst to build on and strengthen our creative economy across the area, making the North East the place of choice for local indies, attracting and growing flagship businesses and talent across the screen sector.”

Tom Gutteridge, chairman of Northern Film + Media, said: “This is a monumental period for the North East screen industry. It will be transformational and we hope not only to increase the amount of large scale productions coming to the region, but also continue to work, support and develop local productions to ensure the North East voice is well and truly heard by global audiences.”

The Northern Echo:

Pat Chapman, Vice Principal (External Relations & Employability) at The Northern School of Art, said: “The Northern School of Art plays a vital role in providing the real-world skills and training for the creative industries - with award-winning alumni working throughout the industry.  

“We have a 160-year heritage of providing skilled people for this country’s creative industries which have been the fastest growing in terms of both employment and value for more than two decades.  

“This year has seen record spending on feature films and high-end TV, we help to provide the talent that makes that possible and our development of The Northern Studios will provide essential regional infrastructure to ensure that growth happens in this region.

“We are delighted with the BBC’s announcement to invest in the creative industries and training in the North-East. We look forward to a region-wide partnership that will see the region take its rightful place on our screens.

“We know there is a wonderful community of amazing talent, creativity, ambition and a new generation of talented and skilled young people who are eager to make their mark in this region. This investment will further develop the essential infrastructure for the booming creative screen industries in the North East.”  

Nina Yoxall, Studio Manager at The Northern Film & TV Studio, the North-East’s only large-scale commercial film and television production and studio complex, said: “Having worked in the television industry for over twenty years, I understand the importance of supporting the growth of talent, filming and production in the regions.  

“The Northern Film & TV Studios are set to provide much-needed large-scale studio space in the region alongside some of the most stunning natural outdoor shoot locations in the country.  

“As a teenager growing up in Teesside, it didn’t feel possible to pursue a career in the TV industry without making the move to London.  

“This investment, alongside the development of new production facilities, such as the Studios, will help create jobs and opportunities for our homegrown talent trying to establish their careers in the screen sector.  

“It feels like an incredibly exciting time for the region.”  

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “We welcome this investment and are looking forward to working with the BBC and other partners to deliver exciting opportunities and raise our profile as a place where culture thrives.

“This announcement comes at a time when County Durham is campaigning to be UK City of Culture 2025. Previous UK Cities of Culture have developed great partnerships with the BBC and other broadcasters – who can forget Hull being added to the UK weather map? This special relationship between the BBC and the North East means we have a platform to develop truly extraordinary projects that shine a light on the talent and creativity of the region.”

Tony Harrington, chair of Culture Durham, said: “In the past, those wishing to work in film or television have had limited opportunities in the region, leading many to move away to bigger cities such as London or Manchester.

“The fact the BBC has decided to increase its investment in the North East shows it realises we have a lot more to offer, both in terms of skills and creativity, but also as a filming location. Our diverse landscapes and heritage sites have already featured in many high-profile films and television shows – from Vera and Inspector George Gently, to Harry Potter, Marvel’s Avengers and 1917.

“This investment will help create more such opportunities and promote our region to even more audiences. And, if County Durham gains UK City of Culture 2025 status, we can tap into this potential further and deliver an ambitious and inclusive cultural programme that benefits the entire region.”

Earlier this year, the BBC announced a new partnership with Creative Wales and another with Create Central, the screen agency in the West Midlands, alongside existing agreements with Northern Ireland Screen and Screen Scotland.