BBC Television Centre

BBC Television Centre

BBC Television Centre (sometimes abbreviated TVC or TC) in London is home to much of the BBC's television output, BBC Radio 5 Live and since 1998, almost all of the corporation's national TV and radio news output by BBC News. It is one of the most recognised and iconic broadcasting sites in the world, often featuring as a backdrop in many BBC programmes.

Officially opened on 29 June 1960, the building is four miles west of Central London at Shepherd's Bush. It was one of the world's first purpose built buildings for television production, and remains one of the largest television production centres in existence. Unlike Broadcasting House the building is not listed but is the subject of a listing applicationcite web|url= |title=BBC shuns headquarter sale-and-leaseback|accessdate=2007-10-23] – a petition to preserve the building attracted 1,701 signatures, [cite web|url=|title=E-Petition to Preserve BBC Television Centre|accessdate=2007-10-26 "The BBC will be downsizing it's operations at BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ. As a result, the site will be underused and the building may well be demolished. This eye-catching building should be preserved for the nation, as it is an important part of our cultural heritage. We ask that BBC Television Centre get grade 1 listed building status."] with English Heritage recommending that parts of the building be listed at grade II.cite web|url= |title=“Auntie” honoured in recommendation to list parts of BBC Television Centre|accessdate=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."]

The building

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. [cite web|url=|title=An Unofficial History of BBC Television Centre (History of Television Studios in London)|first=Martin|last=Kempton|accessdate=2007-09-07] 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, 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. [cite web|url=|title=Television Gets A Complex (Transdiffusion - EMC Studio One)|accessdate=2007-06-21] 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 second largest television studio in Britain, and is equipped for HDTV production (as are TC4 & TC8). [cite web|url=|title=BBC Resources Completes Second HD Studio at Television Centre - BBC Resources|accessdate=2007-11-13] 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", [ [ "The House of Eliott" (Rec:1993-11-04 Tx:1994-02-20)] BBC Programme Catalogue] which ended in 1994, and the last single drama recorded was "Henry IV, Part 1", in 1995. [ [ "Performance: Henry IV Part 1" (Rec:1995-09-22 Tx:1995-10-28)] BBC Programme Catalogue - see also its BFI Screenonline entry [] ] 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. [cite news|url=,,1987589,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1|title= Here's one we made much, much earlier - and now it's time to move|publisher=The Guardian|first=Matt|last=Wells|date=2007-01-11|accessdate=2007-01-14]

Recent reports in the media suggested English Heritage has requested listed status for the Television Centre's scenery workshop, the canteen block adjoining the Blue Peter garden, and the central building. However, under a long standing deal between the BBC and English Heritage the building is not and has never been 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. [ BECTU newsletter "BBC Informer", July 2008 ]

Future relocation

It was announced on 18 October 2007 that in order to meet a £2 billion shortfall in funding, the BBC will "reduce the size of the property portfolio in west London by selling BBC Television Centre by the end the financial year 2012/13", [cite news|url=|title=Radical reform to deliver a more focused BBC|publisher=BBC Press Office|date=2007-10-18|accessdate=2007-10-18] with Director General Mark Thompson saying the plan will deliver "a smaller, but fitter, BBC" in the digital age. [cite news|url=|title=BBC cuts back programmes and jobs|publisher=BBC News Online|date=2007-10-18|accessdate=2007-10-18] A BBC spokeswoman has added that "this is a full scale disposal of BBC Television Centre and we won't be leasing it back".

In 2012, subject to building work completion, all BBC News, national radio and BBC World Service broadcasts will 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, four and a half miles west.

Two other departments, Sport and Children's, will move from Television Centre to in Salford Quays in 2011 along with Children's Learning, Radio Five Live and part of BBC Future Media & Technology. [cite news|url=|title=BBC move to Salford gets green light|publisher=BBC Press Office|date=2007-05-31|accessdate=2007-10-23] This move will see up to 1,500 London-based posts relocating north. The BBC have still not confirmed whether the building will definitely close [BECTU newsletter "BBC Informer", July 2008 ]

Major events

During the early hours of Sunday March 4 2001, a car bomb located in a taxi exploded in front of Television Centre (see 4 March 2001 BBC bombing). The building had been evacuated and no-one was seriously injured. The attack was attributed to dissident Irish Republicans. It was speculated at the time that the "Panorama" programme that named those suspected of involvement in the Omagh bombing was the motive for the attack.

Today, audience members are subject to airport style security; they have to walk through metal detectors, while bags and coats pass through an x-ray machine.

Television Centre has suffered previously from power cuts (see BBC Two), which due to varied reasons are not seen as a systemic problem. On 20 June 2000 a power cut across West London forced many services off air, including the main network evening news. On 30 June 2001 power-cuts again caused major breaks in output across all BBC services, with the added complication that a fire in backup generators caused the evacuation of the building.

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, [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.] 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.


External links

* [ Television Centre] (BBC Press Office)
* [ Television Centre Backstage Tours] (
* [ Unofficial History of BBC Television Centre] (TV Studio History)
* [ Future of BBC TV Centre in doubt] (BBC News Online)
* [ BBC Television Centre may be sold for £300m] (Telegraph)
* [ Decision to sell BBC Television Centre signals end of an era] (Daily Mail)
* [ BBC TV Centre sale looks unlikely] (Guardian)
* [ BBC icon for sale?] (TechWatch)
* [ Row brewing over listing of BBC Television Centre] (Guardian)
* [ BBC Televison Centre sale at risk as English Heritage considers listed status] (Telegraph)
* [ Listed status bid for BBC centre] (BBC News Online)

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