BBC spends millions to return home

The BBC is planning to spend millions of pounds moving its news operation back to Broadcasting House - three years after spending millions of pounds moving it out,
writes Robert Mendick.

The BBC is planning to spend millions of pounds moving its news operation back to Broadcasting House - three years after spending millions of pounds moving it out, writes Robert Mendick.

The corporation has asked architects for a redesign of Broadcasting House. It wants to demolish two 1960s office blocks including Egton House, the former home of Radio 1, which run alongside Broadcasting House. In their place it wants a hi-tech news centre to house both radio and television news operations by 2006.

The cost of the move will be funded by a private partnership deal with a property consortium, yet to be named. The BBC has promised it will not use income from licence fees.

The consortium will gain a share of the freehold on all BBC property. The BBC would then probably pay an annual rent to the consortium in exchange for the rebuilding and managing the properties.

A source close to the process put the cost of the Broadcasting House development at £200m. The architectural firm MacCormac Jamieson Prichard has been awarded the lucrative contract after winning a design competition.

BBC news operations moved to a purpose-built centre at White City just three years ago. The move has been unpopular with both journalists and politicians, who are loath to make the lengthy trips to west London for interviews.

Peter Ainsworth, the Conservatives' culture spokesman, said last night: "Clearly this has been mismanaged. These are decisions involving tens of millions of pounds of licence-payers' money. It seems to me there has been a serious lack of forward planning."

A BBC spokeswoman said last night that an announcement on the precise use of the Broadcasting House redevelopment would be made very soon. She said that moving news back to central London was just one option.

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