BBC may share Manchester site with Microsoft

By Nigel Burnham

The BBC is close to narrowing down its search for a new site in
Manchester or Salford from four potential locations to two – and could
share a future home with Microsoft.

Manchester city council revealed last week that talks are to be held
with the global software company. The council is trying to attract
technology companies to link up with the BBC in a proposed “media zone”.

Four
sites – two in Manchester and two in Salford – have been examined for
the move of five departments and 1,800 staff posts in 2010. Two are
expected to be shortlisted either before Christmas or early in the new
year, with BBC governors expected to announce the chosen location in
March.

The projected £600m cost of the move has been reduced to under £400m – although that figure could still rise.

BBC
director of nations and regions Pat Loughrey said the move had to
provide licence fee payers with value for money, but cost-cutting was
not its main aim. He said the BBC was “completely committed” to the
move and keen to get on with the project, although it is still
dependent on final approval by the governors and a satisfactory licence
fee deal from the government.

A spokesman for Manchester city
council said: “Microsoft is one of a number of technology providers to
whom we are, and will be, talking.

Manchester is committed to
becoming a world-class centre for knowledgebased economy. We are always
keen to investigate opportunities for attracting extra jobs and
expanding the city.”

The BBC’s plans for a new centre in
Manchester received further backing after the board of governors
approved the findings of a feasibility study on the move in October.

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