BBC governors have given the go-ahead to treat Salford as the leading bidder for the relocation of several departments — including sport — from London.
However, the broadcaster has stressed the whole move is still dependent on further outstanding issues being resolved.
A BBC spokeswoman said: "We are treating [Salford] as the leading bidder, in principle, and are going to conduct further discussions with them on an exclusive basis with a view to them being confirmed as the preferred bidder, but that is providing that these outstanding issues can be resolved within the limited period of exclusivity."
The governors have always said that any decision will be based on the project's affordability and whether it offers value for money for licence fee payers.
The BBC said the affordability of the project cannot be determined until a settlement on the licence fee is reached, which is due later this year.
Following the decision, the board of governors issued a statement that stressed if BBC management was unable to resolve the outstanding issues within the period of exclusive talks with Salford, which is expected to end in July, other options could be considered.
BBC director general Mark Thompson said: "I'm pleased that we have taken another step forward in our proposals to create a major new centre for network broadcasting in the North of England.
"I believe this presents a unique opportunity for other broadcasters and the independent sector to join us in a project that could bring very significant benefits for audiences and for the economy of the North."