BBC English Regions

BBC England is the division of the BBC responsible for local and regional television, radio and web services in England, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. Previously called BBC English Regions, it is one of the BBC's four "nations" – the others being BBC Cymru Wales, BBC Northern Ireland, and BBC Scotland.[2]

BBC England
TV transmittersTerrestrial, cable and BBC UK regional TV on satellite
Radio stationsBBC Local Radio
HeadquartersThe Mailbox, Birmingham
Key people
Helen Thomas, Director of BBC England (2018–present)[1]
Official website

The division is made up of 12 regions. Many of the names of these regions are similar to those of the official government Regions of England, but the areas covered are often significantly different, being determined by terrestrial transmission coverage rather than administrative boundaries.[3]

BBC England has its headquarters at The Mailbox in Birmingham (West Midlands) and additional regional television centres in Norwich, Nottingham, Broadcasting House (London), Newcastle, MediaCityUK (Salford), Southampton, Tunbridge Wells, Plymouth, Bristol, Leeds, and Kingston upon Hull as well as local radio stations based at 43 locations across England.[4]

Overall, the division produces over 70% of the BBC's domestic television and radio output hours, for about 7% of the licence fee.[5]

Since April 2009, the division has been aligned with the BBC News department to "maximise co-operation in the BBC's news operations".[6]


The four regions

The current BBC England directorate was the product of the controversial Broadcasting in the Seventies report – a radical review of the BBC's network radio and non-metropolitan broadcasting structure – published on 10 July 1969.[7]

Before this the structure of regional broadcasting in England had remained virtually unchanged since the late 1920s, when the establishment of four regional radio transmission stations covering England had led to a regional structure on similar lines. BBC Midlands and East was based in Birmingham covering a swathe of central England from the Potteries to Norfolk, BBC North was based in Manchester and covered the area from Cheshire and Sheffield northwards and BBC South and West was based in Bristol covering the area south and west of a line from Gloucester to Brighton. The London area, though it had regional transmission infrastructure of its own, produced only national programming and wasn't considered to be a region as it acted as the sustaining service for the other regions.

These regions (alongside the national regions BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland that performed a similar role outside England) were well-suited to delivering the pre-war BBC Regional Programme and the post-war BBC Home Service that replaced it. By the 1960s, though, the growth of television, the birth of the more locally based ITV franchises in 1955 and the development of smaller BBC Local Radio stations (made possible by the development of FM radio) were making the structure look increasingly anachronistic.

Broadcasting in the Seventies

Previous BBC English Regions logo

The effect of Broadcasting in the Seventies was to separate the two different roles of regional BBC offices into different organisations:[8][9]

  • The two major television channels BBC1 and BBC2 were to remain primarily national operations. To prevent this leading to total domination by London, three large Network Production Centres (NPC), each one having its own medium-size colour TV studio – BBC Bristol, BBC Birmingham and BBC Manchester – were established in the headquarters of the former regions, to produce programming for national broadcast across the entire United Kingdom.[10]

Each of the production centres also had network radio studios (BBC Birmingham, for instance, producing The Archers) plus a small television news studio, the latter to enable local (opt out) programming.

  • BBC English Regions was created to take on this other role of the former regions – the production of specifically local programming (mainly from small island sites) – through a new tier of eight much smaller regions described on page eight of the report as "the basic unit of English broadcasting outside London" and controlled from headquarters in the newly built Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham.[11]

As a result of the latter, Plymouth-based BBC South West and Southampton-based BBC South were split from BBC West in Bristol; Norwich-based BBC East separated from BBC Midlands in Birmingham; a new smaller BBC North West was created from the existing Manchester-based region, with the old BBC North name being taken by the newly created region based in Leeds;[12] and the existing Newcastle-based BBC North East separated from the old BBC North Region in this process.

In addition London and the surrounding area was finally recognised as a region with the creation of BBC South East although the region was not to get a dedicated regional programme of its own until 1982 and regional news bulletins for the area did not launch until September 1985.

These new regions produced local news programmes and opt-outs on television, but regional radio programming on the BBC Home Service was to be replaced by BBC Local Radio.[13] The report stated that the local radio experiment, started in 1967 "has proved that there is a demand for local radio" and that the BBC should "put forward to the Postmaster General a provisional scheme for expanding our local network to about forty stations".

Current structure

Map of the BBC English regions

This structure has largely survived since the 1970s. Local news services were developed on Ceefax from 1997 and were extended onto the web in 1999. The decreasing costs of television production and improving technology also enabled the gradual development of even smaller regions. In 1991, BBC East Midlands was finally created in Nottingham,[14] BBC London (separated from BBC South East) became a region in 2001[15] and BBC North was split into BBC Yorkshire and BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire in 2004[16] – with the new millennium seeing several BBC regions moving into new premises. In the East, South and South West regions, sub-regional opt-outs during local news programmes have also been created (similar to those on ITV regional news programmes), based respectively in Cambridge, Oxford and Jersey. In total, the BBC has produced the regional news bulletins for London, the East, South East, South, South West, West, the West and East Midlands, and the North West regions of England, with the Look North branding for Yorkshire, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and the North East and Cumbria, with national bulletins for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. All follow the national UK-wide BBC News bulletins.


Programmes made for BBC England include Walking with... and Winter Walks,[17] two series produced by Cy Chadwick, where presenters take solitary walks along scenic paths, filming themselves and their surroundings with a 360-degree camera on a selfie stick. All the episodes from a series get a regional slot on BBC One where they are broadcast at all the same time, before the whole series gets a national repeat on either BBC Two or BBC Four.

We Are England

We Are England

In 2022, a new regional documentary strand titled We Are England was launched,[18][19] as a replacement for the current affairs show Inside Out. A notable change is that episodes represent large, new, combinations of English regions, based in six main bases (Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Norwich); each week is themed around a different subtitle, with the first being Mental Health.[20]

Aisling O'Connor, the head of TV Commissioning for BBC England, commissioned 120 episodes to be broadcast in 2022, with the first being shown on 26 January 2022 at 7:30pm.[21][22][23][24][25] In-addition to being shown on BBC One, select episodes are also repeated on BBC News[26] and on BBC Three.[27][28]

See also


  1. "Helen Thomas".
  2. "BBC Nations & Regions". BBC Press Office. August 2004. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  3. "BBC English Regions". BBC Commissioning. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  4. "English Regions". BBC Press Office. Archived from the original on 29 March 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  5. "Information About BBC English Regions". BBC English Regions. Archived from the original on 20 March 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  6. "BBC promotes role of national and regional broadcasting in leadership restructuring". BBC Press Office. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  7. The BBC Story – 1960s (page 6) BBC
  8. Broadcasting in the Seventies. British Broadcasting Corporation. 1969. ISBN 0-563-08562-2.
  9. "Broadcasting in the Seventies". Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  10. "House of Lords – BBC Charter Review – Minutes of Evidence". UK Parliament. 22 November 2005. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  11. "The future of Pebble Mill". BECTU. 7 May 1999. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  12. "Look North is 35!". BBC Bradford and West Yorkshire. 25 March 2003.
  13. "Frequency Finder UK – History of radio transmission". Archived from the original on 30 April 2007. Retrieved 13 April 2007.
  14. Broadcasting in the Seventies was a document concerned mainly with radio reorganisation and funding – having only one and one half pages devoted to television and the regions (on pages 7 and 8) – where it had stated, back in 1969, that "in the longer term, as money permits, we would hope to set up further centres, with the one in the East Midlands as a first priority".
  15. "BBC South East – News". TV Ark. Archived from the original on 18 January 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2009.
  16. "BBC – BBC buildings". Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  17. "BBC Four - Winter Walks, Series 1, Simon Armitage". BBC.
  18. "BBC One - We Are England - Available now".
  19. "BBC One - We Are England".
  20. "BBC One - We Are England, Mental Health, Unfiltered - Cambridge".
  21. "BBC commissions 120 We Are England documentaries". 6 January 2022.
  22. "We Are England replaces Inside Out on BBC One". 7 January 2022.
  23. "BBC England launches new current affairs programme as platform for underserved audiences". 10 January 2022.
  24. "We Are England to redraw BBC TV regions". 25 January 2022.
  25. "BBC announces new regional current affairs strand for England". 6 January 2022.
  26. "BBC One - We Are England, Mental Health, Cold Swim - Tynemouth".
  27. "We Are England - My Hometown: Jayde Adams: Coming Home".
  28. "BBC iPlayer - BBC Three Guide - Mon Jul 11 2022". BBC Iplayer.

Further reading

  • Briggs, Asa (1961–1995). The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (Volumes I-V). Oxford University Press.
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