THE BBC is facing criticism and a £5,000 bill after a terror alert at its northern headquarters in Salford.
Bomb squad officers were called out and hospitals put on standby after a package posted from BBC Northern Ireland was deemed suspicious at a sorting office near MediaCity.
The parcel actually contained a home-made spy camera recording device inside a plastic drinks bottle, for use in BBC Panorama investigations.
But when X-rayed it looked like a bomb and a terror scare was sparked at the offices of Swiss Post in Salford, shortly after 9am on Wednesday, with police, bomb disposal, fire and the ambulance service put on alert.
It was thought initially the package had been sent as an exercise to test security procedures at the BBC HQ, but the corporation said this was not the case.
Tony Lloyd, the police and crime commissioner for Greater Manchester, has called on BBC bosses to investigate – and promised to send them the bill for the false alert.
Mr Lloyd said: “Whatever has happened here, whether a deliberate hoax or a stupid mistake, it caused severe disruption to the emergency services and the local community in Salford.
“The cost of this operation to the police alone is likely to be around about £5,000 and I will be sending the bill to the BBC’s director general.
“It’s not right that the people of Greater Manchester should have to pick up the tab for Panorama’s stupidity.
“There is a police investigation ongoing and it needs to run its course, but I will also be writing to James Harding, the new director of news at the corporation, as I expect him to carry out a full review of the circumstances.
“The BBC owes it to the people of Greater Manchester to explain how Panorama caused this farce to happen, and what they will do to avoid a repeat of it.”
A spokesman for the BBC said everyone had acted in good faith.
“The package contained filming equipment and had been sent from BBC Northern Ireland by Royal Mail because it was needed in Salford the following day,” he said. “This was categorically not part of an investigation testing security procedures.
“There was a stamp on the outside of the package that showed it had been sent by BBC Northern Ireland and it was addressed to a producer at BBC Salford. The package was referred to the police as it was believed it looked suspicious.”