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by Will Strauss
I n less than three years dock 10 has grown from a mere studio operator with add-ons to a fully-
fledged digital media service provider. Will Strauss tracks the changes.
MediaCityUK in Salford, Greater Manchester is exactly as the name suggests: a towering metropolis
pumping out TV, radio and digital content to Britain and beyond.
Situated opposite the Imperial War Museum and Old Trafford football ground, on the lip of the Manchester Ship
canal, in what was once thriving (but then derelict) docklands, it is a corporate citadel that has helped to change the
landscape of TV in this country.
Thanks to £650m of investment from The Peel Group (and support from various public sector bodies) it is now the
home of BBC North - including a number of BBC channels and departments - as well as ITV’s northern operation,
SIS, Salford University and various other media companies, institutions, agencies and more. Very soon, with the last
cobble having been laid just a couple of weeks ago, it will also be the location of the Coronation Street set.
Part regeneration project, part cultural empowerment exercise, MediaCityUK has created jobs, educational
opportunities and countless other benefits for both the creative community and the economy in the North of
England. Living just a short train ride away I have watched on closely as MediaCityUK has grown.
I was there in 2007 on the day that the first clump of earth was dug. I was there for the topping out ceremony when
a golden spanner was used to turn the final nut and bolt of the steelwork. And I was there when the BBC opened its
Because of this, throughout that period, I have also spent an inordinate amount of time being shown around the
studio block that sits at the centre of MediaCityUK - to the extent that I probably deserve some sort of loyalty card.
When it opened, this facility was the first new British TV studio in a generation. It was also (and as far as I can tell,
still is) the largest purpose-designed HD studio in Europe.
Now, it has transformed yet again. Which is the point of this article.
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, however, let’s dispel a myth: that the studios operation at MediaCityUK is a
BBC facility. It’s not. The BBC merely hires the studios for production of its programmes and for channel continuity.
Back in 2010 a joint venture between SIS and Peel Media was awarded a 10-year contract to provide BBC North
with studios, post and technical services. This JV is responsible for the studios.
The arrangement works well for all concerned as the corporation is actively seeking to move away from owning
and operating buildings and towards a rental model. And the JV is guaranteed several millions of pounds a year in
revenues. 46 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 81 SEPTEMBER 2013