Belfast Telegraph

BBC HQ may set sail for Belfast's Titanic Quarter

BY NOEL MCADAM

The BBC could be about to shift from its historic Broadcasting House base in Belfast – with the Titanic Quarter a possible new location.

BBC NI Director Peter Johnston confirmed the corporation was looking for a "a central, neutral and accessible site" and there were five possibilities, but he didn't rule out the Titanic Quarter.

No final decisions have been made, as Beeb bosses review their "operational needs".

But Mr Johnston told a Stormont committee a move to the Titanic area could make sense in production terms.

"Everyone seems to obsess about the Titanic Quarter, partly because the studios are there, which is another factor," he said.

"No law says that the BBC cannot try to use those studios as well, which is, potentially, good."

Questioned by MLAs on the culture and arts committee, he said there were close to 20 potential sites around Belfast city centre and at least five possibilities.

The DUP's William Humphrey said budgetary constraints had forced the BBC to make changes in other areas of the UK.

"The corporation... decided to close Television Centre (in London) and then came the Salford operation," he said. "So it is natural for people to think that the BBC might well move to one consolidated, purpose-built site."

Mr Johnston replied: "Absolutely, and I am not saying that the Titanic Quarter is not a viable site. Of course it is.

"I am saying that there is a perception that we are moving."

He told MLAs: "We have a good, central location, and we want to maintain that. We have not yet made a decision, but, when we do, it will be fair and objective."

In a statement BBC NI added: "As part of its ongoing development BBC Northern Ireland is reviewing its operational needs. This includes buildings, technical and other requirements.

"No final decision has yet been made on the timing or logistics of a move away from the Broadcasting House site in Belfast.

"In planning for the future we are concerned to ensure that the BBC's main operational base in Northern Ireland remains fit for purpose in a fast-changing technological environment."

BACKGROUND

Substantive building work on the BBC's new Northern Ireland headquarters began in 1939 and continued despite the outbreak of the Second World War. It was completed in 1941 at a time when regional broadcasting was largely in abeyance. Services resumed in 1945 and BBC television arrived in Northern Ireland in 1953, reaching a bigger audience with a new transmitter at Divis in 1955. With the Troubles the Belfast newsroom grew to meet the demands of a fast-changing news agenda and Broadcasting House was among many city centre buildings to sustain bomb damage.

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