BBC chief says move to Manchester is on course

BBC director general Mark Thompson has denied that plans to move much of the corporation to Manchester have been put on ice.

The Observer reported that BBC chairman Michael Grade had “shelved” the move.

But Thompson said: “The article was wrong to suggest there has been any change. There is a process of developing the plan, bringing it to the Government for approval, and so forth.

“Nothing has changed — the plans are still on course. The final green light for Manchester depends on what the level of the licence fee is at.” Relocation to Manchester is part of the BBC’s Wider Out of London strategy. The cost of relocation is thought to be around £400m and it is proposed to take place in 2010.

It will involve BBC Sport, Radio Five Live, BBC New Media, Research and Development, CBBC and Children’s Learning.

In response to Grade’s apparent threat to shelve the move, the Conservative Party’s shadow culture, media and sport secretary, Hugo Swire, accused him of “brinkmanship and tin-

rattling” — implying that Grade was using the move to bargain for a higher licence fee.

But Thompson said: “I believe that this policy and in particular the Manchester division are the right thing for the BBC to do and the right thing on behalf of the British public.

“Our governors always made it very clear that it depended on affordability.

There is a question of whether it can be afforded and that question will be decided only once we’ve seen all the licence fee figures.

“I believe that if at all possible, we should pursue that plan.”

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