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How much did the new EastEnders set cost? BBC bosses grilled on costly new Albert Square set

The new set was originally budgeted to cost the BBC around £59million and was due to be completed in 2018

The new Eastenders set ran over budget by almost £27million, reaching a cost of £86.7m by its completion. (Credit: BBC)

The BBC has come under fire for the extortionate budget used on the new set of the channel’s flagship soap EastEnders, amid debates around the future of the licence fee.

The new set cost the corporation an eye-watering £86.7 million to complete, with the project going over budget by £27 million.

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Bosses have now defended the cost of the new set, with BBC Director-General Tim Davie stating that the corporation needed to “invest” in the popular soap.

At a glance: 5 key points:

  • The brand new set for EastEnders has started being used by cast and crew after the £86.7m project was completed
  • The project, which was originally budgeted to cost £59.7m and be finished in 2018, went £27m over budget during the construction
  • BBC bosses said that the old set had been used since the show began in 1985 and was no longer “fit for purpose”
  • Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries last week announced that the licence fee would see a two year price freeze and announced review of the need for the licence fee, sparking a conversation around the way in which the BBC is funded
  • BBC Director-General Tim Davies says that the cost of the new set was just one of the ways in which the corporation is “investing” in the development of the soap going forward

New set £27m over-budget

The new set was unveiled by the BBC who say that it gives them more filming locations for the soap and will allow for higher definition images.

Cast and crew of Eastenders have started filming on the new Walford set. (Credit: BBC)

The old set was built in 1984 - ahead of the launch of the show in 1985 - and was originally only to be used for two years.

Upon the announcement of a new set project, the BBC said that the existing set was no longer “fit for purpose”.

Cast and crew have just began filming on the new set, which ran over budget by £27m, and scenes featuring the new look soap will air in March.

A band new Albert Square set for Eastenders was completed for a price of £86.7m (Credit: BBC)

During an appearance at the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, the BBC’s chief operating officer Leigh Tavaziva confirmed that the project had ran over budget.

Mr Davie, who was also present at the committee hearing, told MPs that the cost was essential for the soap.

He said: “That whole set wasn’t going to work anyway so it needed investment. We’re also confident about EastEnders as a strand; we’ve just put a new showrunner in there.

“We need to keep investing, doing our thing, and that will deliver audiences that we believe make sense for us, both in terms of linear and iPlayer.”

Axing licence fee is ‘a disservice to the health of our creative industries’

The admission that the set project had run over-budget by £27m comes as the debate around the BBC licence fee reignites.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries last week announce a two year freeze on the price of the licence fee.

She was also met with criticism after she announced a review into the licence fee’s future existence.

Speaking at the committee hearing, Mr Davie told MPs that scrapping the licence fee would do a “disservice” to the country.

He said: “To deliver public service broadcasting, and a strong public service media, is one of the things we should be fighting for, and we should be proud of in the UK, and is a huge competitive advantage.

“And I worry, actually, that we don’t clock the risk to that. If we dismantle this, I honestly think we’ll be doing a disservice, not just to our culture and our democracy, but also to the economic health of our creative industries.”

Changing of soap schedules

Coronation Street is set to air hour-long episodes from 8pm on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, while Emmerdale will move to a 7.30pm slot.

EastEnders will continue to air between 7.30pm and 8.30pm during the week.

Mr Davie told MPs the BBC was “not immune from competitive pressure”, adding: “You may have a marginal impact or an impact during that hour, but we’re confident that the overall case for the EastEnders development remains strong.”

Ms Tavaziva added that bosses were “not that concerned” about the potential clash between the country’s biggest soaps as she believes EastEnders has a “more younger-skewing audience”.

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