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BBC may delay sale of HQ building

Value of Television Centre has plummeted

LONDON — The BBC may put the planned sale of Television Centre, which contains one of Blighty’s largest studio complexes, and other prime real estate on hold due to the U.K.’s plunging property market.

Corporation toppers had hoped to raise hundreds of millions — at one time Television Centre was believed to be worth more than $500 million — from the sale, but declining values are forcing the pubcaster to rethink.

The coin would have provided a much-needed boost to corporation coffers.

These have been under strain since the U.K. government refused to increase the BBC’s license fee to the level the Beeb had demanded.

A delayed sale will have negative implications for the BBC’s finances and could lead to further belt tightening.

“Do we sell now or do we hang on in the hope that the market will pick up?” said a BBC source.

“This is a major development opportunity for someone. We’ve had expressions of interest, but we are not having a fire sale,” the source added. “An early sale seems less likely.”

BBC insiders deny that the sale of the property portfolio, which includes Woodlands, the recently vacated former home of commercial division BBC Worldwide, has been put on ice.

The BBC is due to leave Television Centre sometime after 2012 when staff and programs will be re-located to other premises.

These include a new HQ at Salford, near Manchester in the North of England, and a restyled Broadcasting House in London’s West End, which is being refurbished at a cost of around £800 million ($1.28 billion).

The fall in the U.K. property market underlines the fact that the BBC is not immune to the financial downturn despite being funded by public money, rather than advertising coin or subscription fees.