Hold the front page: BBC Breakfast presenter Sian Williams will not be packing her bags and uprooting her family to join the rest of team when it moves to a new studio in Salford.
Cue gasps of horror and hand-wringing from BBC executives who, despite hailing Project Salford a success, are privately horrified that only 55% of staff affected by the move up North have agreed to relocate to the new multi-million pound media centre.
I have every sympathy for the likes of Williams and her colleague, sports presenter Chris Hollins, who cite their families as the reason why they don’t want to leave London. Relocating is a big deal, especially when forced upon you rather than part of a personal life-plan.
But I also have sympathy for the BBC which, after mounting criticism from its detractors, has invested some £800 million into the new headquarters as part of its drive to make itself less London-centric and create more job opportunities outside the capital.
As Peter Salmon, the BBC’s North Director, said recently: “The BBC’s move to Salford Quays presents a unique and exciting employment opportunity for the BBC and the north of England.”
But not quite exciting enough for Mr Salmon himself, who, to the astonishment of his staff, is refusing to lead by example and take his family to Salford.
There’s been a lot of hypocrisy about this story: both from people insisting on the move who don’t want to move themselves; and from media commentators whose criticisms mask the fact that they too would be deeply reluctant to sacrifice their membership of Soho House to work outside London.
The truth is sometimes hard to say. Salford and Manchester are interesting cities, with plenty going on. But they are not London. In terms of culture, gastonomy, buzz and sheer glamour, the gap between our capital city and our other metropolitan areas remains significant. And this gap matters especially in journalism, where the contacts and networks which generate compelling stories are themselves based in London.
How, for example, will BBC Breakfast persuade top guests to travel to Salford for a 7am interview? Under the current set-up guests can be brought to the studio by taxi from central London with little disruption. In relation to sport, there is much less advantage in being in the capital, given the distribution of big teams and events throughout the country.
Until the move is complete, no one can say for certain whether it’s been a success or not. But all the early indications suggest that the migration up north has not gone according to plan.
Fingers crossed for Auntie that I’m wrong.