The BBC Hates Leeds: Mind The Bias
I’d better fess up right from the beginning; I’m partial to a bit of an anti-BBC rant based on the fact that they disrespect Leeds (and most other UK cities) with monotonous regularity. As their investment and output show, in BBC land the nation has two ‘real’ cities, London and Manchester. I doubt they’d know in the Beeb bubble that Sheffield is a bigger city than Manchester… well they may know, but they’d never admit it.
The target of my ire here is Evan Davis and his dishonest Mind The Gap programmes – the second episode went out last week – which look at how the rest of the UK can compete with London. Constantly name-dropping Manchester, he managed not to mention Leeds at all in the first programme, leading to his very biased conclusion in the second that only Manchester could compete with London. To be fair, he did allow someone from Hebden Bridge to claim the mantle of the UK’s second city due to its ‘quaint suburbs’ of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield.
Some simple facts for you, Evan. Leeds is the UK’s third biggest city in terms of population and it’s almost double the size of Manchester with a bigger and more successful economy.
Before I get ranting what – other than the BBC’s huge investment in the area – would I concede that Manchester has going over Leeds? Two main things: the first is a proper international airport and the second is the success of its football teams spreading the name around the globe.
Leeds Bradford International Airport is expanding all the time, but without moving location or proper investment in transport links it will never compete with Manchester.
Although we’re clearly crap and in turmoil at the moment I’d argue that Leeds United is one of the few clubs who could compete at the top of the Premier League and has the potential to return to being one of the world’s great clubs. Leeds is a one-club city and (sorry Bradford) has no viable competition as a ‘big’ club amongst a population of over 3 million people in its vicinity.
Leeds United has always had a special fan base, to quote Simon Grayson: “People talk about Leeds United fans being the best in the country. I’d say Europe, if not worldwide.” In the Premier League Elland Road was annually measured as the loudest ground in the league and I can never imagine LUFC simply being a corporate brand; they’ll never have to create a ‘singing zone’ to create an atmosphere at the ground.
Even after ten years outside the top division, in utter turmoil, Leeds United still sell more merchandise than most Premier League clubs, including Man City, Villa, Everton and Newcastle.
After being relegated to the third division for the first time in its history with a 15 points deduction and no realistic chance of promotion from the very start of the season, how many English clubs would get an average crowd of over 26,000? Alright, I know, “If mi auntie had had a penis she’d’ve bin mi uncle,” and we’re more likely to go back into administration than the Premier League, but there is something fundamentally magic about LUFC and that magic is a saleable commodity.
Forgive me my deluded football wittering, I’ll return to Evan Davis, who, apparently, is an economist. I should say I generally quite like Evan but he’s wound me up.
What the BBC tend to do on such occasions is ‘confuse’ the city of Manchester with Greater Manchester, which is not a city but a type of county. I’ve no idea how they sneaked Greater Manchester past the people of Salford, Bolton or Wigan. I do know that if, at any point in history, you suggested that an area of Yorkshire was called Greater Leeds then the proud people of Bradford, Wakefield, Halifax or Keighley (a town bigger than Wigan) would, quite rightly, be out on the street smashing and burning stuff.
God knows how he managed it, but Evan came up with the utterly ludicrous idea that Leeds is the UK’s eighth biggest urban area. But, like chopping up Africa after a World War, I suppose it depends where you draw your lines and what information you choose to consider. It’s not objective, it’s smoke and mirrors.
Here’s a graphic from the programme showing the population of Leeds and Manchester that Evan didn’t comment on. Evan, do you notice anything?
In order to balance out Evan’s BBC-mirroring Manchester obsession I’m going to select some economic indicators of my own.
In 2012, the GVA (the value of produced goods and services) of Greater Manchester was £50.99 billion, compared to £55 billion for the Leeds City Region (figures for the GVA of the city of Manchester are unavailable).
Leeds has lower unemployment, 9.6% compared to 11.9%.
People living in Leeds earn an average of £498.4 a week as opposed to £461.6 for Mancunians.
76.4% of Leeds folk (between the ages of 16-64) are economically active as opposed to 69.4% in Manchester.
Leeds was last year ranked above Manchester for quality of life.
Evan quite rightly pointed out that for a city to be successful it needs supporting expertise. Evan, Leeds is the largest legal centre outside London and has over 122,000 people working in banking, finance and insurance, the largest number of any UK city bar London.
Mind The Gap is symptomatic of this over-riding BBC obsession with Manchester and London. The BBC is supposed to represent the nation, yet the vast majority of times the BBC produce a general report that could be from anywhere, they do it in London, Salford or Manchester. “I’m at a sixth form college in Salford.” “I’m on the streets of Manchester asking people if ghosts should have the same pension rights as the living.” Why not use the BBC in Hull, Bristol, Sheffield, Swansea, Glasgow or Birmingham to do some of these vox pops and get to know the nation? The UK isn’t just London and Manchester/Salford.
The BBC, or the Manchester Marketing Board as I like to describe it, is funded by us and I humbly suggest that for the rest of the nation there should be no taxation without representation.