China joins the media brigade in Camden Town

BILLIONS of eyes will be focussed on Camden Town from next week as it becomes the CCTV capital of Europe

Ben McPartland

BILLIONS of eyes will be focussed on Camden Town from next week as it becomes the CCTV capital of Europe.

The vibrant quarter of north London is not about to become the continent's focal point for close circuit television cameras - but the new home for the European headquarters of China Central Television (CCTV).

The biggest TV network in the People's Republic of China - and one of the fastest growing in the world - is the latest media company to move into Camden Town, joining the likes of MTV and the Associated Press (AP) news agency. The broadcaster, run by the Chinese government, will have its new base in the Lockside Interchange building, alongside AP.

Deputy leader of Camden Council, Andrew Marshall, met representatives of CCTV to discuss the move.

He said: "I was impressed by the seriousness and professionalism of the two senior people I met.

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"What I learnt from them is they had evaluated spots in London and Paris for the European base and decided on Camden. We are delighted about that. We obviously have some significant media businesses and it is fantastic that we are going to have an Asian broadcaster here as well."

Camden Town has long been a fashionable location for media firms. In the 1980s, Britain's first Breakfast TV station TV-am had its studios, complete with the famous giant eggs and tea cups on the roof, in Hawley Crescent. When TV-am vacated the building in 1991, MTV moved in and started broadcasting across Europe.

The arrival of the CCTV is good news for the area according to Simon Pitkeathley, chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited.

He said: "This is a global player in the creative media business moving into this part of London. Camden is now becoming to global media what the City is to financial services. Camden has a young creative work force and it's actually a cheap place to locate but still very central. We look forward to welcoming them to this vibrant part of town."

CCTV's European base will be slightly more discreet than the new base which is being built in Beijing. The new HQ, at a height of 230metres and with a floor area of 400,000sqm, is due to open in time for the Beijing Olympics this year.

The Chinese government has been criticised for its human rights record in the run-up to the Olympics.

But Cllr Marshall said the issue did not arise in their talks.

He said: "We didn't go into all that stuff. I expect they have changed quite a lot in the last few years. I expect when Gordon Brown meets and others talk to the Chinese they make a point about human rights and democracy and it's important we get that right.

"But China Central TV having their European hub here is good news."

The Ham&High attempted to contact CCTV but no one was available for comment.