THE wind of change was blowing in both Salford and London today.
Delegates at the Television from the Nations and Regions Conference at The Lowry heard from BBC Chief Operating Officer Caroline Thomson, who said a BBC future without Salford was now “almost unthinkable”.
She added: “For the BBC it represents a hugely symbolic and significant shift of emphasis from the capital to the regions.”
Further evidence of that came with renewed speculation that the iconic BBC Television Centre in west London (pictured) may close.
That’s one of the options to be examined by the new BBC Trust because of the move of 1,500 staff posts to Salford and that of BBC News to Broadcasting House in central London.
Opened in 1960, the loss of TV centre would be – to echo Caroline’s words on Salford – “hugely symbolic”.
But the BBC has plenty of other major buildings nearby, with the vast studio space at TV Centre no longer in constant use.
A sale of the site would raise millions to help balance the books in a new licence fee era.
The Cabinet was today discussing the BBC’s licence fee settlement with an announcement of a below inflation deal imminent.
Although the BBC will get less than it said it needed to carry out all of its future plans, both Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and Broadcasting Minister Shaun Woodward have already indicated the money will be found for Salford.
It’s yet to be explained how this will work – and the final decision still appears to rest with the BBC.
Even so, all the signs indicate that the move of five BBC departments to Salford in 2010 or 2011 will go ahead.
Caroline (pictured right) described the project as “hugely significant” with “compelling reasons” to build a new future in Greater Manchester.
“It is something we want to do because we think it’s the right thing to do to serve audiences better.”
Architects Wilkinson Eyre are working on detailed designs for three major BBC buildings on the Media City site.
The BBC is also making its first small move into Salford by using offices and studio space in the old Pie Factory building on Broadway.
A new BBC Comedy North sitcom called Small Time is to be filmed there for BBC3, along with a second series of indy produced Drop Dead Gorgeous, for the same channel.
Shameless creator Paul Abbott, co-founder of the Tightrope production company and a strong supporter of the BBC move north, is also leasing an office.
The TV world is changing fast. That wind could soon become a gale.
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