Bristol City Council fights to keep Casualty
Bristol City Council has joined the battle to keep TV's Casualty in the city and protect the £10-million a year in revenue it generates.
It is using its connections and its media know-how to put pressure on BBC chief Mark Thompson to ditch plans to move production to Cardiff, the Bristol Evening Post can reveal.
The council's involvement behind the scenes – driven by Casualty's importance to the city's economy and its culture – emerged at a meeting of the quality of life scrutiny commission.
Councillor Colin Smith (Lab, Bedminster), who is his party's chief whip on the council, asked what was being done to stop the hugely popular hospital soap leaving Bristol.
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And when Councillor Rosalie Walker, a member of the council's ruling cabinet, bemoaned general cutbacks in local media, David Bishop, the authority's strategic director for city development, said: "We haven't lost anything yet. We have a very strong hand and we are playing that hand at a very high level."
Later, he told the Bristol Evening Post chief executive Jan Ormondroyd and other "senior representatives of the council" had held talks with BBC director-general Mark Thompson.
"Mr Thompson is visiting all the regions to talk about the BBC's regional plans," he said.
"They talked about Casualty. The council's interest is about the local economy and maintaining and developing the BBC's involvement locally."
The Post last week revealed the Saturday night drama was set to move to Cardiff.
The show has been filmed in the city since 1986 and pumps £10m a year into the local economy.
BBC executives said the series would need new accommodation in the near future and moving it to Cardiff would help the organisation "meet its commitment to building a creatively and economically sustainable centre of excellence for drama in Wales".
Mr Smith said yesterday he welcomed Mrs Ormondroyd's talks with the BBC. "We can only keep our fingers crossed, but I'm optimistic," he said.
"We have a strong hand to play."
He said the council's own film and media unit provided valuable support and facilities for TV and film crews working in the city.
And Mr Smith felt the case for Bristol would be pressed particularly effectively because of the strength of Mrs Ormondroyd's new top team of officers.
He said the Bristol officials had "the ear" of people at the top of the BBC and in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in London.