BBC is heading for the river

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The Independent Online
THE BBC is planning to move its entire television, radio and on- line news departments into a purpose-built building with River Thames frontage. The proposal comes just a year after the BBC controversially moved radio news journalists from Broadcasting House in central London into Studio Six - a state-of-the-art, multi-million-pound bi-media news centre five miles away at White City - at a cost of over pounds 20m.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the BBC is considering four sites in the capital for its 1,200 news journalists, choosing between Canary Wharf, two sites on the South Bank and one other. The corporation wants a building which contains an 80,000 sq ft floor akin to a "dealing room" where it can house its journalists.

A source close to the BBC blamed bad planning for the move. "When they decided to base news journalists at White City, its two digital news stations weren't up and running. Now that they are, Studio Six is far too small. The journalists hate it." Politicians and other contributors to programmes are also believed to have complained about the inconvenience of the location.

Gavin Allen, a journalist on Radio Four's PM programme, said: "This may be a fittingly muddled epitaph to John Birt's reign as director-general at the BBC, but a River Thames base does sound lovely."

It is understood that a cleared site between Tower Bridge and London Bridge is the favourite site. To be part of the London Bridge City complex, the 13-acre site is owned by CIT, an off-shore trust. It recently persuaded the Government to select its site to be the new home of the Greater London Assembly, due to open next year.

If the plan goes ahead, BBC World Service broadcasters would also move from their base at Bush House in the Aldwych, where the lease runs out in 2004, and the BBC's local London radio station, GLR, could move from its Marylebone base. A spokeswoman confirmed that the corporation is viewing sites. A decision is expected "later this summer".

If the BBC does opt for the South Bank of the Thames, it will confirm the area as a media centre. Carlton Television's London News Centre, London Weekend Television, Express newspapers and the Financial Times are already based there.