BBC Television Centre
BBC Television Centre at White City in West London is the headquarters of BBC Television. Officially opened on 29 June 1960, it was one of the world's first buildings designed specifically for the making and transmission of television 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. In 2011 the radio and television news departments will move to Broadcasting House in central London, the traditional home of BBC Radio, as part of an ongoing reorganisation of the BBC's facilities. On 21 September 2010, the BBC's Director of Vision, Jana Bennett, announced that the BBC will cease broadcasting from Television Centre in 2013. 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." 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. The building lies in the parish of St Michael and St George, White City.

On Friday 1 April 1949, Norman Collins, the then Controller of the BBC Television Service, announced at the Television Society's annual dinner at the Waldorf Hotel that a new TV centre would be built in Shepherd's Bush. Transmissions at the time came from Alexandra Palace and Lime Grove Studios (from 1949), and had very few television transmitters. It was to be the largest television centre in the world. Riverside Studios in Hammersmith were used from 1954. It was planned to be six acres, but turned out to be twice as big. On 24 August 1956 the main contract was awarded by the BBC to Higgs and Hill, who also later built The London Studios (ITV) in 1972. The building was planned to cost £9m. When it opened, the Director of BBC television was Gerald Beadle, and the first programme it broadcast was First Night with David Nixon in Studio Three.

The building

Circular shape
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. 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. 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 CBE (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. However, an article in The BBC Quarterly, July 1946, proposed a circular design for a new television studio complex, several years before Dawbarn drew up his plans. The building was first commissioned in 1949.

The centre's studios are run by BBC Studios and Post Production, a wholly owned commercial subsidiary of the BBC. They range in size from 110 square metres (1074 ft²) to the vast Studio One (TC1) at 995 square metres (10,250 ft²) " the fourth largest television studio in Britain (following The Fountain Studios' Studio A&B, MediaCityUK's Studio 1 and The Maidstone Studios' Studio 5), and is equipped for HDTV production (as are Studio Four, Studio Six and Studio Eight). The studios host a wide variety of TV shows for a range of broadcasters, including Strictly Come Dancing, Harry Hill's TV Burp, Match of the Day, Later with Jools, Miranda, The Alan Titchmarsh Show, The Armstrong and Miller Show and 8 out of 10 Cats, as well as big complex live productions such as Children in Need and Comic Relief. Over the years they 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 , which ended in 1994, and the last single drama recorded was Henry IV, Part 1 , in 1995. 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.

In February 1996, the source of the building's electricity and heating was transferred to a European Gas Turbines (EGT) 4.9MWe Typhoon gas turbine Combined Heating, Power and Cooling unit. It included a 6MW Thermax air conditioning (cooling) vapour absorption machine (VAM). The £6m HVAC system reduced the centre's energy costs by 35%, and paid for itself within three years. A second turbine was added, without a second chimney. However in 2008, the BBC admitted that the energy system is only being used for emergency purposes as it became cost-ineffective to use full-time. Excess electricity produced at night has not been returned to the National Grid, as originally planned. In November 2003, the turbine's chimney's caught fire, effectively bringing TV output in the centre to a halt. Since the fire the turbines have not been regularly used.

Listed status
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. 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. 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.

Future relocation
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", with Director General Mark Thompson saying the plan will deliver "a smaller, but fitter, BBC" in the digital age. 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 2011, 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, despite being only four and a half miles west. Two other departments, Sport and Children's, will move from Television Centre to MediaCityUK in Salford Quays in 2011 along with Children's Learning, Radio Five Live and part of BBC Future Media & Technology. This move will see up to 1,500 London-based posts relocating to Manchester. BBC Breakfast (which is part of BBC News) will also move to Salford at the end of 2011. 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. Although the BBC has said production will cease by the end of 2013 it is not clear what will happen to the building. The BBC themselves envisage it as a cultural centre and other parties have suggested the studios should be retained. By September 2010 the BBC had equipped four of the studios for HD working (studios 1, 4, 6 and 8). 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.

Major events
Television Centre has suffered from a number of power cuts which have affected normal broadcasting; however, these are not seen as a systemic problem. 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, 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 Question Time on 22 October 2009, the BBC had sparked controversy, heated public debate and strong protest when the British National Party leader Nick Griffin was invited onto the programme for the first time. 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 protesters 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.


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