Broadcaster pledges new digital innovation unit for Birmingham

THE BBC is to set up its new digital innovation unit, dubbed the Guerrilla Group, in Birmingham.

Criticised for its lack of commitment to the city, the corporation has said the new unit would explore the next-generation of BBC content.

The group is a three-year partnership between the BBC and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP’s Creative City Partnership. It will see a six-strong digital content innovation team based at Fazeley Studios.

The BBC said that from later this year, a team of storytellers and engineers would begin to work across the BBC with a focus on engaging younger, more diverse audiences. The unit is expected to be fully up and running from 2015.

The unit will have the creative freedom to produce experimental new forms of content for programmes and services, using future technology.

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.”

She said over the next 20 years, the way the BBC packaged and produced its product would change beyond recognition and Birmingham would 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.”

The corporation said the announcement built on BBC Director-General Tony Hall’s creative vision for the BBC in the Midlands, outlined in November.

James Purnell, Director, Strategy and Digital at the BBC, said: “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.”

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.”