North asks BBC to stick to move vow

Stakeholders from the north of England have urged the BBC to honour its commitment to move major departments to Salford.

Bryan Gray, chairman of the Northwest Development Agency, sent an open letter to BBC chairman Sir Michael Grade this week to remind him of the corporation's commitment to moving major departments to the north.

Gray argued that the BBC has "underserved its audiences in the nations and regions for years". He added that the project to move many departments to the north "was welcomed as a sign that the BBC was about to recognise the 14.4 million licence fee payers who live there".

The comments come in the wake of BBC director-general Mark Thompson's warning last week that the corporation may abandon the move north if it does not get the licence fee settlement it wants. The government will decide next month whether the BBC can increase the licence fee by its request of 1.8 per cent above the rate of inflation.

But Gray pointed out in his letter that millions of pounds of public and private sector money have already been spent to enable the BBC to move to state-of-the-art custom-fitted premises on the mediacity:uk site at Salford Quays.

Gray also expressed concern at the corporation's claim that the move will cost it an undisclosed sum. He insisted that it will result in "a net saving to the BBC over a reasonable period".

The letter ends: "We look forward to the BBC honouring its commitment to the north and welcoming your staff in 2010". The BBC's move north is expected to create 15,500 jobs and contribute £200 million to the UK economy every year.

A BBC spokeswoman said it has received the letter and will "reply in due course". She added: "One of the key tests has always been affordability and that is linked to the licence fee."

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