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BBC Television Centre
Country of origin United Kingdom
Production
Location(s) BBC Television Centre, White City, London
External links
Official website

Coordinates: 51°30′37″N 0°13′34″W / 51.51028°N 0.22611°W / 51.51028; -0.22611

BBC Television Centre: still one of the largest such facilities in the world

BBC Television Centre at White City in West London is the headquarters of BBC Television. Officially opened in June 1960, it was one of the world's first buildings designed specifically for the making and transmission of TV programmes. It remains one of the largest.

Most BBC national and international TV output comes from Television Centre, as well as, in more recent years, that of Radio 5 Live–and, since 1998, most of the corporation's national TV and radio news output.

Having featured over the years as backdrop to many BBC programmes, it is one of the most readily recognisable such facilities anywhere.

A sharp rise in local property values sparked by the impending arrival of the nearby Westfield shopping centre, placed the building under threat. It is now protected from demolition.

Making the protection announcement in July 2009, the Government's architecture minister Barbara Follett noted that it was where Doctor Who, Fawlty Towers and Blue Peter first came to life. "It has been a torture chamber for politicians, and an endless source of first-class entertainment for the nation — sometimes both at the same time." [1]

Like Broadcasting House, the much older headquarters of BBC Radio just north of Oxford Circus, it is now Grade II listed. The building is four miles west of central London. The nearest Underground stations are White City and Wood Lane.

Contents

The building

Panoramic view of the centre of the building, showing the statue of Helios, the Greek god of the sun.
Studio TC1 at BBC Television Centre

The building features a distinctive circular central block (officially known as the main block — but often affectionately referred to by staff as the "doughnut") around which are studios, offices, engineering areas and the new News Centre. It was built as a circle so that when cables were laid from each studio to the central apparatus room (CAR), through the centre of the circle, the cabling distance between all studios was the same. In the centre of the main block is a statue designed by T.B. Huxley-Jones, of the Greek god of the sun, Helios, which is meant to symbolise the radiation of television light around the world. At the foot of this statue are two reclining figures, symbolising sound and vision, the components of television. (This structure was originally a working fountain but due to the building's unique shape it was too noisy and was deactivated.) Even though there is a foundation stone marked 'BBC 1956' in the basement of the main building, construction had begun on the site in 1951.[2] Over time various extensions have been added to the building to maximise the site's potential. Increasingly the corporation has had to seek further accommodation elsewhere, such as the nearby BBC White City. This new complex comprises White City One, a 25,000 square metre office building, and the linked Broadcast and Media Centres.

The overall design for Television Centre, from the air, appears to be like a question mark in shape. The architect, Graham Dawbarn (Norman & Dawbarn), drew a question mark on an envelope (now held by the BBC Written Archives Centre) while thinking about the design of the building, and realised that it would be an ideal shape for the site.[3] However, an article in The B.B.C. Quarterly, July 1946, proposed a circular design for a new television studio complex, several years before Dawbarn drew up his plans.

The centre's studios range in size from 110 square metres (1074 ft²) to the vast Studio TC1 at 995 square metres (10,250 ft²) — the third largest television studio in Britain (following The Fountain Studios' Studio A&B and The Maidstone Studios' Studio 5), and is equipped for HDTV production (as are TC4 & TC8).[4] The studios have been home to some of the world's most famous TV programmes including Fawlty Towers, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Blue Peter, Absolutely Fabulous, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and classic Doctor Who. Since the early 1990s however the studios have been home to few dramas – the last major drama series to be shot there being The House of Eliott,[5] which ended in 1994, and the last single drama recorded was Henry IV, Part 1, in 1995.[6] This was because drama production moved almost entirely onto film or single-camera video, and Television Centre is a video-based, multi-camera production environment.[7]

In February 2008 (with a subsequent amendment in that November) English Heritage requested listed status for the Television Centre's scenery workshop, the canteen block adjoining the Blue Peter garden, and the central building.[8] Previously, under a long standing deal between the BBC and English Heritage the building was not listed, to allow the BBC to make regular changes that are necessary in a broadcasting centre. In return, if the Corporation ever left TV Centre, it agreed that the fabric of the building would be restored to its mid-60s state, and English Heritage would then list notable features.[9]. On 17 June 2009 the Department for Culture, Media and Sport decided to list at Grade II the Central Ring of the building and Studio 1, noting in particular the John Piper mosaic, central drum with its mosaic tiles, the Huxley-Jones gilded statue of Helios, full-height glazing of the stair and original clock in the Central Ring. The 'atomic dots' and name of Studio 1, along with the cantilevered porch on its exterior were noted as important architectural features of that building. The Department did not consider the other buildings, including all other studios, scenery block and canteen of sufficient special interest to warrant listing them, and specifically excluded them.[10][11]

Future relocation

Television Centre on BBC Children in Need night 2008.

It was announced on 18 October 2007 that in order to meet a £2 billion shortfall in funding, the BBC intends to "reduce the size of the property portfolio in west London by selling BBC Television Centre by the end the financial year 2012/13",[12] with Director General Mark Thompson saying the plan will deliver "a smaller, but fitter, BBC" in the digital age.[13] A BBC spokeswoman has added that "this is a full scale disposal of BBC Television Centre and we won't be leasing it back"[14]

In 2012, subject to building work completion, all BBC News, national radio and BBC World Service broadcasts could be moved to Broadcasting House in central London. The building is planned to have the largest live newsroom in the world. The BBC News Centre at Television Centre was only opened in 1998, in a new complex at the front of the building. The decision to move radio news to this building was attributed to Director General John Birt, a move that was resisted by the then managing director of BBC Radio, Liz Forgan, who resigned after failing to dissuade the governors. Birt's decision has caused problems for BBC Radio in particular, for example politicians accustomed to travelling to interviews at Broadcasting House have been reluctant to make the journey to White City, despite being only four and a half miles west.

Two other departments, Sport and Children's, will definitely move from Television Centre to mediacity:uk in Salford Quays in 2011 along with Children's Learning, Radio Five Live and part of BBC Future Media & Technology.[15] This move will see up to 1,500 London-based posts relocating to Manchester.

Despite all these plans, which have met with some opposition amongst employees, councillors and the public, the BBC have still not confirmed whether the building will definitely close.[9]

Following the UK "credit crunch" and the beginning of the recession, the plans for Television Centre came under review and employees were informed, via email, that it was doubtful that the building would be disposed of by 2013, and possibly even 2016, when the BBC charter is up for renewal.[16]

Major events

BBC News coverage revealed the extent of the damage to the front of the building from the bomb.

Television Centre has suffered from a number of power cuts which have affected normal broadcasting; however, these are not seen as a systemic problem.[citation needed] One such power cut caused the launch night of BBC Two, on 20 April 1964, to be cancelled; programmes began the next day instead.

Just before 0800 GMT on 28 November 2003 an electrical fault caused some equipment to overheat which set off fire alarms. Although there was no fire the fault did cause widespread power cuts and prevented backup generators from providing alternative power. Again, all output was affected with services transferred across London to alternative studios. For example, both the One O'Clock News and BBC News 24 broadcast for much of the day from the BBC's Millbank Studios,[17] and the morning radio shows the Today programme and Five Live's Breakfast fell off air for 15 minutes. This power cut came on the week prior to the relaunch of News 24, which was postponed for another week to ensure that all problems had been remedied.

For the 22 October 2009 edition of Question Time, the BBC had controversially invited the British National Party leader Nick Griffin onto the programme for the first time, sparking public debate and protest.[18] BBC Television Centre had its security breached with around 30 anti-fascist protesters storming the reception area in protest of Griffin's appearance. Further protests continued around the centre's ground, with several hundred protestors gathering outside. Police and security staff were forced to close gates leading into Television Centre and form barriers to prevent any further breaches of security.[19]

References

  1. ^ Grade II listing for BBC Television Centre
  2. ^ Kempton, Martin. "An Unofficial History of BBC Television Centre (History of Television Studios in London)". http://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/tv%20centre%20history.htm#early%20plans. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  3. ^ "Television Gets A Complex (Transdiffusion - EMC Studio One)". http://www.transdiffusion.org/emc/studioone/tvcentres.php. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  4. ^ "BBC Resources Completes Second HD Studio at Television Centre - BBC Resources". http://www.bbcresources.co.uk/about/archive/070606_hd_tc8.html. Retrieved 2007-11-13. 
  5. ^ The House of Eliott (Rec:1993-11-04 Tx:1994-02-20) BBC Programme Catalogue
  6. ^ Performance: Henry IV Part 1 (Rec:1995-09-22 Tx:1995-10-28) BBC Programme Catalogue - see also its BFI Screenonline entry [1]
  7. ^ Wells, Matt (2007-01-11). "Here's one we made much, much earlier - and now it's time to move". The Guardian. http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,,1987589,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1. Retrieved 2007-01-14. 
  8. ^ "“Auntie” honoured in recommendation to list parts of BBC Television Centre". http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.14079. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  "English Heritage has advised the Minister for Culture Media and Sport to recognise the extraordinary cultural and architectural significance of BBC Television Centre at White City, Wood Lane, London, and list parts of it at grade II."
  9. ^ a b BECTU newsletter BBC Informer, July 2008
  10. ^ http://www.bdonline.co.uk/Journals/Builder_Group/Building_Design/10_July_2009/attachments/163253%20revised%20BBC%20TV%20Centre%20advice.pdf
  11. ^ http://www.bdonline.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=3144719
  12. ^ "Radical reform to deliver a more focused BBC". BBC Press Office. 2007-10-18. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2007/10_october/18/reform.shtml. Retrieved 2007-10-18. 
  13. ^ "BBC cuts back programmes and jobs". BBC News Online. 2007-10-18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7050440.stm. Retrieved 2007-10-18. 
  14. ^ "BBC shuns headquarter sale-and-leaseback". http://uk.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idUKL1857762220071018. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  15. ^ "BBC move to Salford gets green light". BBC Press Office. 2007-05-31. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2007/05_may/31/salford.shtml. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  16. ^ "An Unofficial History of BBC Television Centre". http://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/tv%20centre%20history.htm#future. 
  17. ^ The BBC's Millbank Studios are a fall-back for news operations in the event of TVC failure, and are continually recording the last hour of the BBC News Channel output (less in-vision clock) for this purpose.
  18. ^ BNP on Question Time The Guardian
  19. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8321157.stm

External links

Preceded by
Villa Louvigny
Luxembourg
Eurovision Song Contest
Venue

1963
Succeeded by
Tivolis Koncertsal
Copenhagen
Preceded by
first venue
Eurovision Dance Contest
Venue

2007
Succeeded by
SECC
Glasgow
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Simple English

BBC Television Centre (sometimes abbreviated TVC or TC) in White City, London is home to much of the BBC's television output. Since 1998, almost all of the corporation's national TV and radio news by BBC News is made there too.


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