Mayor of London Boris Johnson has launched a blistering attack on the BBC today following CoStar News’ revelation that the organisation had pulled out of last-minute talks to move the Eastenders studio to the Olympic Park. The mayor also revealed that he had recruited Prime Minister David Cameron in a last-ditch bid to rescue the deal.
CoStar News revealed this morning that the BBC had shelved talks to anchor the 940,000 sq ft London 2012 media centre in Hackney Wick with its Eastenders production after months of secret negotiations.
Sources familiar with the situation told CoStar that the Olympic Park Legacy Company, which is responsible for the centre post Games, has been holding off officially marketing the centre in anticipation of a deal to house the broadcaster in a large slice of the 640,000 sq ft broadcast element of the £355m complex. The talks are understood to have in part revolved around moving the Eastenders production from Elstree in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire to a home in the east end.
In an interview with the Evening Standard today the Mayor has responded.
He accuses the BBC and its “boss class” of being “bureaucratic, wasteful and out of touch”.
The mayor accused BBC production executives of snobbery towards the East End and said concerns raised over the Olympic facility’s acoustics had been a smokescreen.
He added that he had recruited prime minister David Cameron to help rescue the deal after he was informed by BBC director general Mark Thompson late last week that they had abandoned the planned move.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt had been due to hold crunch meetings with Mr Thompson last night to resurrect the relocation to the £330m facility after the Games which would have given a huge boost to 2012 legacy. City Hall insisted they had solved any technical issues through painstaking testing and insisted the deal broke down over BBC attitudes towards moving to the East End.
The mayor added: “This was an opportunity for the BBC to deliver better value for money for hard-pressed license-fee payers and confront critics who say it’s bureaucratic, wasteful and out of touch.
“There was the chance for the BBC to show genuine commitment to the East End – an area it has harvested for audiences for decades. I’m astonished that the boss class don’t see the obvious advantages of rooting a popular drama in an area it claims to portray. Perhaps if they seized this opportunity – which I still urge them to – their plots and script lines would reflect the vibrancy and optimism of this critical part of the capital and not the relentless negativity that often comes across.”
The OPLC said in a statement this morning: “Over the past year we have been engaged in the market for the future uses of the Press and Broadcast Centres to ensure a great legacy for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and its surrounding communities.
“The BBC is one of the organisations we have been in discussion with and we have done a significant amount of work to meet their needs and production requirements. Ultimately this is a decision for the BBC.”