Paxman: BBC relocation is like fall of the British empire

Feb 21, 2012

Jeremy Paxman questions BBC's £1bn revamp at a time when it is supposed to have no money

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JEREMY PAXMAN has attacked the BBC's £1bn move from its landmark west London studios to premises in the centre of the capital, comparing the corporation's profligacy to that of the declining British empire.

Paxman was interviewed for the Radio Times by the historian and Labour MP Tristram Hunt. Asked by Hunt whether working at the BBC was like the "last echoes of empire", Paxman said: "No. They're all far too politically correct, I'm afraid.

"Funny though, isn't it, that 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 is currently in the throes of a move which will see the broadcaster vacate its Shepherd's Bush studios by 2015 and staff relocated to Portland Place in the West End, a swanky new 'MediaCity' in Salford, and buildings in Bristol and Glasgow. The reorganisation has cost around £1bn so far, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The BBC has defended its plans, saying in a statement: "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."

As for the question of whether the BBC is too politically correct to mention the British empire, the point of his interview with Hunt was too promote his new series about that very subject. Empire begins on 27 February at 9pm - on BBC 1.

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