A £2m investment in North East talent will boost the region’s ailing television industry and pave the way for future productions, a BBC chief claimed.
Peter Salmon, the newly-appointed director of BBC North, made the pledge as he came to the city to officially unveil the new series of children’s programme Tracy Beaker. But he also admitted the region had been neglected by London-based programme makers.
It comes after concerns were raised about the area’s vanishing TV profile and the January axing of the last network drama series made here, Wire In The Blood.
The 13-part CBBC Tracy Beaker series will be filmed in Newcastle and will be screened in 2010.
Local TV technicians, regional actors and film crews are all likely to benefit from the move as jobs are created.
And Mr Salmon claimed the production of the children’s programme could re-ignite the region’s TV profile.
He said: “There’s more than £2m of production activity and it’s all going to be filmed across several months this summer.
“There will be work for technicians, actors and film crews, with a lot of freelance workers being staffed too. With Byker Grove the North East once led the way and Tracy Beaker is one of the most watched programmes we have. I really hope it will put the region back on the map.”
Mr Salmon also said ITV staff could be working alongside their BBC rivals as part of plans to cut down costs at the regional news broadcaster.
Under the new thinking, the commercial channel will be able to share the BBC’s facilities in order to protect the future of regional news broadcasting on commercial television.
Mr Salmon said: “The North East has been neglected for a number of reasons, mainly because network programmes sometimes feel remote and that they operate from hundreds of miles away.
“But this big push could help because there are issues with our audience in the North and we have to try and please watchers from the region.
“The notion is that we encourage programme makers to use the whole of the North, from Liverpool to Newcastle.
“We’ve got strong regional centres in the North East and there’s a strong tradition of making first class programmes. In that sense there is something that we can really build on.”
The number of locally-based TV professionals has plummeted as work had dried up across the region.
And yesterday Mr Salmon said the decline of the industry was, in part, down to the economic climate.
He said: “Television producers have felt the full force of the recession. I don’t think the TV industry is going to die, I think that’s far too gloomy, but we do have to adapt to go with the changing climate.
“One way we could do that is by focusing as much on historical and cultural documentaries as we do on dramas.
“It’s dangerous to focus on one type of programme during the recession, and documentaries are a great way of showing off what the North East has to offer.”
Actress Dani Harmer, who plays the troubled teenager in the show, was due to visit the Sage yesterday for the launch, but was unable to make it after being struck down with illness.