WILL the BBC’s big move to Salford really happen?
BBC director general Mark Thompson visited the site of the proposed Media City on Friday.
It was a sunny afternoon as we stood on a balcony at The Lowry, where this photo was taken.
“Today, with the sun shining, you can almost see the thing there across the water,” he told an audience of VIPs, business leaders and MPs.
“I think it’s a fantastic project and an important project to do,” added the head of the BBC, who was at pains to stress his personal commitment.
“I want to give you an absolute assurance today that if it is achievable, we will achieve it.”
You can read more about his comments in Saturday’s MEN news story, which is online here.
It’s all still, of course, tied to the government’s licence fee settlement announcement, which looks likely to leave the BBC with less than they say they need for all their future plans.
Many have criticised Mr Thompson for linking the Salford plans to the licence fee deal, even though that was always the case from day one.
His answer? “But nothing’s changed in that. It’s not as if we’ve got cold feet or that we’re less committed to it now than we were three months ago or six months ago.
“The fact is, we’re in a process now of arriving at a settlement on the BBC’s future funding.
“It’s a tantalising moment. We have this fantastic vision, a very strong collective sense that it’s the right thing to do – you should not doubt our commitment to this vision.”
There are also many people who think the BBC move – make or break for the planned new MediaCity:UK – will fall at the final hurdle.
And there may well be more doom and gloom from the pundits when the government finally reveals details of the BBC’s licence fee deal.
Depending on the timing of that Whitehall announcement, the decision on Salford may fall to a BBC Governors’ meeting next month.
In a telling quote, Mr Thompson said: “I believe when they come to this momentous decision, I think they too have been inspired by this vision.”
Compared to other future BBC plans, such as the controversial Local TV proposals, the 2010 Salford move is ready and waiting to roll. You CAN almost see the thing there across the water.
Everyone agrees it’s a good idea – not just for Salford or Greater Manchester, but for the whole of the north of England.
Felicity Goodey, interim chief executive of MediaCity:UK, says it will spark an “explosion of creativity”.
She is “absolutely confident” the big move will happen.
And surely the BBC, and its director general, have come too far down the road north to turn back now?
As he told me on that sunny Friday afternoon: “I think Salford should be a very high priority.”
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I’m away for a few days – back later in the week.