Paxman criticises BBC Television Centre plans

 

Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman has criticised the BBC's decision to sell Television Centre and move some staff to central London during a period of budget cuts.

Paxman, 61, compared the broadcaster, which has announced plans to vacate the famous doughnut-shaped TV Centre in west London by 2015, to the British Empire, before de-colonisation.

He told the Radio Times: “They always said that the way you know if the British are going to de-colonise is when they start building massive government buildings - that was certainly the case in India.

“And the BBC's much the same. What organisation - at a time when it has no money, allegedly - would move from cheap square footage in west London to Oxford Circus?”

The BBC announced in 2007 its intention to sell Television Centre, the landmark Shepherd's Bush home of BBC television and news which opened in 1960, to maximise the site's value to the BBC and licence fee payers.

Staff are moving to the revamped Broadcasting House in central London and its new BBC North headquarters in Salford.

Paxman, who presented a series on the British Empire on BBC1, described the BBC as one of the legacies of Empire, along with sport, religion and the prevalence of the English language.

But, asked in the Radio Times whether he ever felt the last echoes of Empire at the Corporation, he said: “No, they're all far too politically correct, I'm afraid.”

The Newsnight presenter, whose younger brother is the British Ambassador in Spain, also told the magazine that the Foreign Office should be a thing of the past.

He said that “there's a very strong case for getting rid of the whole of the Foreign Office, apart from trade missions and consular services.

“It grew as the empire grew, and it predates not merely email and video-conferencing, but the Bakelite telephone.

“We could spend the money on expanding the British Council, funding scholarships in Britain and developing the World Service of the BBC. That's the way you spread influence in the modern world,” he said.

Paxman also criticised former prime minister Tony Blair for apologising for the Irish potato famine, telling the magazine that “apologising for things that your great, great, great, great-grandfather or grandmother did, seems to me a complete exercise in moral vacuousness”.

A BBC spokesman defended the relocation of staff, saying: “We are surprised that Jeremy did not know that the move to Broadcasting House will save the BBC more than £700 million.

“The BBC is reducing the size of its estate and Broadcasting House will become the primary BBC site in London and for the first time in the BBC's history, key network and global services in television, radio, news and online will work together on one site.”

It is expected that nearly 6,000 staff will be based at Broadcasting House, the majority of them programme-makers.

:: The full interview is in this week's Radio Times

PA

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