Broadcasting House is the headquarters of the BBC, in Portland Place and Langham Place, London. The first radio broadcast from the building was made on 15 March 1932, and the building was officially opened two months later, on 15 May. The main building is in Art Deco style, with a facing of Portland stone over a steel frame. It is a Grade II* listed building and includes the BBC Radio Theatre, where music and speech programmes are recorded in front of a studio audience.
|BBC Broadcasting House|
New Broadcasting House
Broadcasting House and the new eastern extension
|Alternative names||BH, BBC Broadcasting House|
|Architectural style||Art Deco|
|Town or city||London|
|Current tenants||BBC Monitoring|
BBC Radio 1
BBC Radio 1Xtra
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 Extra
BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC World Service
BBC World News
|Construction started||21 November 1928|
|Inaugurated||15 March 1932|
|Client||British Broadcasting Corporation|
|Owner||British Broadcasting Corporation|
|Height||34 m (112 ft)|
|Floor count||9 above ground, 3 below ground|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||George Val Myer|
|Civil engineer||Marmaduke T. Tudsbery|
As part of a major consolidation of the BBC's property portfolio in London, Broadcasting House has been extensively renovated and extended. This involved the demolition of post-war extensions on the eastern side of the building, replaced by a new wing completed in 2005. The wing was named the "John Peel Wing" in 2012, after the disc jockey. BBC London, BBC Arabic Television and BBC Persian Television are housed in the new wing, which also contains the reception area for BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra (the studios themselves are in the new extension to the main building).
The main building was refurbished, and an extension built to the rear. The radio stations BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 Extra and the BBC World Service transferred to refurbished studios within the building. The extension links the old building with the John Peel Wing, and includes a new combined newsroom for BBC News, with studios for the BBC News channel, BBC World News and other news programming. The move of news operations from BBC Television Centre was completed in March 2013.
The official name of the building is Broadcasting House but the BBC now also uses the term new Broadcasting House (with a small 'n') in its publicity referring to the new extension rather than the whole building, with the original building known as old Broadcasting House.
Construction of Broadcasting House began in 1928. Programmes transferred gradually to the building. On 15 March 1932 the first musical programme was given by the bandleader Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra. Hall also wrote and performed, with his dance band, Radio Times, the name of the BBC's schedule publication.
The first news bulletin was read by Stuart Hibberd on 18 March. The last transmission from Savoy Hill was on 14 May, and Broadcasting House officially opened on 15 May 1932. George Val Myer designed the building in collaboration with the BBC's civil engineer, M. T. Tudsbery. The interiors were the work of Raymond McGrath, an Australian-Irish architect. He directed a team that included Serge Chermayeff and Wells Coates and designed the vaudeville studio, the associated green and dressing rooms, and the dance and chamber music studios in a flowing Art Deco style.
The building is built in two parts. Dispensing with the oft-found central light-well of contemporary buildings this size, the central core containing the recording studios was a windowless structure built of brick. (Structural brick rather than steel framing was used in order to reduce noise transmission both from without and between studios.) The surrounding outer portion, designed for offices and ancillary spaces, is steel framed and faced using Portland stone. While the outer portion had plenty of windows, the inner core required special sound-dampened ventilation systems.
There were two areas where right of ancient lights would cause height restrictions. While the rights on the southern side ceased to be a problem after the owners of those rights gave concessions, the rights on the eastern side were dealt with by sloping the roof away from the street from the fourth floor up, which affected not only the floorplan of the structure but meant that the interior recording tower could not be continued up to the top floor. (Thus, one studio on the top floor was actually outside the central studio core structure.)
Underground structures, including a hundred-year-old sewer, also presented problems during construction. The building is above the Bakerloo line of the London Underground: the Victoria line was tunnelled beneath in the 1960s, and presented problems for construction of the Egton Wing (see below). Noise from passing trains is audible within the radio theatre, but generally imperceptible in recordings. The ground floor was fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the street, as the BBC believed that to finance such a project (costing £25 million in today's money) they would need to let the ground floor as a retail unit. The rapid expansion of the BBC meant this never occurred.
The original building is a Grade II* listed building.
Beginning in 2003, Broadcasting House underwent a major renovation during the BBC's W1 Programme, with the aim of refurbishing the building and combining a number of the BBC's operations in a new extension. This houses the television and radio operations of BBC News, relocated from Television Centre and the BBC World Service relocated from Bush House on 12 July 2012. Many of the BBC's national radio stations are also broadcast from the building, with the exception of BBC Radio 5 Live and 5 Live Sports Extra which have moved to Salford Quays, and BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 6 Music which moved to new studios in nearby Wogan House in 2006 to make way for the renovation.
The building work was completed in two phases. It began with the demolition of two post-war extensions to the original building.
The first phase consisted of the renovation of the original building, which was starting to show its age and needed structural repair, and a new wing to the east.
In the old building the sloped "cat slide" slate roof was taken off and many of the rooms stripped back to their walls, although much of the Art Deco architecture was retained and preserved. Much of the work focused on the lower walls and ceilings, which did not include Art Deco features. The reception area was renovated to include a new desk, while retaining the message and statue as the attention piece. Many rooms had ceilings removed, such as the south tower, and new reinforcement joists were added.
The new Egton Wing is roughly the same shape as the main building, with a modern design and window arrangement but retaining features such as Portland stone. Towards the rear a large block was created in the side, mirroring that created in the main building when the sloping roof was removed.
The design of the extension, intended to equal the original in "architectural creativity", was carried out by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard. Construction was completed in 2005 and the refurbished Broadcasting House and the new Egton wing were opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 20 April 2006 as part of her 80th birthday celebrations. All areas of the Egton Wing were fully fitted out and completed by 2007.
In 2012, it was announced by the then Director-General Mark Thompson that the Egton Wing would be renamed the 'John Peel Wing' to commemorate the late Radio 1 disc jockey, whom he described as a "great radio talent". Thompson described the wing as a "fitting tribute to a man who personified so much of what the BBC stands for".
The second phase was the creation of the large wing to the rear of the building, joining the two buildings, and creating a plaza between them. The original architects were replaced for not agreeing to cost-related revisions, as Sir Richard MacCormac was unwilling to sacrifice the quality of his design. Construction was completed by Bovis Lend Lease in 2010, and control handed over to the BBC in 2011. While the rebuilding process was under way, many BBC radio stations moved to other buildings near Portland Place.
The extension contains the BBC News and Journalism departments, and state-of-the-art technical equipment and new studios to house the BBC News bulletins on television, the BBC News Channel and BBC World News, the BBC Arabic Television service and the BBC Persian Television service. At the heart of this is a new newsroom, the largest live newsroom in the world.
A walkway above the newsroom allows the public to view the work of journalists, connecting the foyer to the Radio Theatre and a new café for staff and the public. Complemented by the outdoor plaza, which could act as an outdoor arena and theatre, this is designed to engage the public with the television and radio making process. The extension is glass-covered in the plaza area and curved to contrast both wings either side and to continue the glass on both sides high up the building. On the Portland Place side, it continues the same use of Portland stone and glass as with the John Peel Wing.
On Monday 18 March 2013 at 1 pm, following the BBC News Channel's final broadcast from Television Centre, the first news programme from Broadcasting House was aired: the BBC News at One, on BBC One and the BBC News Channel. BBC World News was the first of BBC's news services to move into the new building on Monday 14 January 2013, beginning with "GMT" at noon.
Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the extension on 7 June 2013. The second phase development won the 'Programme of the Year' award at the 2013 annual awards of the Association for Project Management.
When built, Broadcasting House contained 22 radio studios for all programme genres, in the art-deco style with an emphasis on both looks and practicality. The overall practicality of the studios changed rapidly as a result of the limitations of the time and the changing nature of broadcasting and the uses of the studios. These studios were:
|8A||Military Band studio||Serge Chermayeff||Designed for large band and vaudeville performances.|
|8B||Small Debates studio||Serge Chermayeff||A small informally designed studio to encourage lively and confident debate.|
|7A||Production studio||Wells Coates||Acoustically dead studio, used for one section of a drama.|
|7B||Production studio||Wells Coates||Used for speech in a play, drama, and piano performances.|
|7C||Production studio||Wells Coates||Acoustically dead small drama studio.|
|7D||Effects studio||Wells Coates||Small effects studio for producing foley.|
|7E||Gramophone Effects studio||Wells Coates||Small studio for producing effects from or involving gramophones.|
|6A||Production studio||Wells Coates||Double height, large production studio for drama productions.|
|6B||Production studio||Wells Coates||Small drama studio.|
|6C||Production studio||Wells Coates||Acoustically dead small drama studio.|
|6D||Effects studio||Wells Coates||Main effects studio for the production of foley, with different floor coverings and coverings on the main table to achieve different effects, containing items including a wind machine and a water tank.|
|6E||Gramophone Effects studio||Wells Coates||Small studio for producing effects from or involving gramophones.|
|4A||News studio||Wells Coates||Acoustically dead small studio for reading news bulletins. Contained gramophone records to be played in the event of an interruption.|
|4B||News studio||Wells Coates||Acoustically dead small news studio with turntables.|
|3A||Production studio||Serge Chermayeff||A double-height large studio used for Children's Hour, chamber music recitals and the BBC Dance Orchestra.|
|3B||Talks studio||Serge Chermayeff||A small talks studio for unrehearsed debates.|
|3C||Talks studio||Serge Chermayeff||An acoustically dead small talks studio for unrehearsed debates.|
|3D||Library Talks studio||Dorothy Warren Trotter||A small talks studio for speeches and debates. It was decorated in the style of a personal library or study for the benefit of elderly or lordly speakers.|
|3E||Religious studio||Edward Maufe||A double-height large studio with a balcony, designed for religious broadcasts with a focus on all religions so that any religious member would feel comfortable. It was soon disused as listeners preferred the sound of a real church and congregation.|
|The concert hall||Val Myer||A very large double-height concert hall for orchestras playing classical music. It contains a large space for the orchestra, a large section and a balcony for seating, and the first organ suitable for broadcasting. It was renamed the Radio Theatre in 1994.|
|BA||Vaudeville studio||Raymond McGrath||A double-height studio with balcony for theatre and variety performances, with an audience of 60.|
|BB||Dance band studio||Raymond McGrath||A double-height studio with a small balcony for an audience for the BBC Dance Orchestra. It was taken over for experimental television broadcasts on 22 August 1932.|
Following the rebuild and refurbishment, several studios have been added and the studio structure changed dramatically. The current studios are:
|30A||BBC Radio 3|
|30B||BBC Radio 3|
|30C||BBC Radio 3|
|30D||BBC Radio 3|
|40A||BBC Radio 4||Long Wave continuity studio, Yesterday in Parliament, the Daily Service, Test Match Special and the Shipping Forecast.|
|40B||BBC Radio 4||Continuity studio for BBC Radio 4|
|40E||BBC World Service||Focus on Africa|
|40F||BBC World Service||Focus on Africa|
|50B||BBC Radio 4||The Media Show, Woman's Hour, Front Row|
|51A||BBC Radio 5 Live||Used for Radio 5 shows relay to Manchester|
|52A||BBC World Service||Programme productions for BBC languages programme|
|52B||BBC World Service||Programme productions for BBC languages programme|
|52C||BBC World Service||Programme productions for BBC languages programme|
|52D||BBC World Service||Programme productions for BBC languages programme|
|60A||BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 4 Extra, BBC World Service||Radio drama|
|62A||BBC World Service||Programme productions for BBC languages programme|
|82A||BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra & BBC Asian Network||The Radio 1 Breakfast Show, Scott Mills, Annie Mac also used for mixing live performances – adjacent to the Live Lounge|
|82B||BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra & BBC Asian Network|
|82C||BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra & BBC Asian Network|
|82D||BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra & BBC Asian Network||adjacent to the Live Lounge, Nick Grimshaw, Clara Amfo|
|82E||BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra & BBC Asian Network|
|82F||BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra & BBC Asian Network|
|82G||BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1Xtra||Newsbeat (15-minute bulletins)|
|82H||BBC Radio 1 & BBC Radio 1Xtra||Newsbeat (hourly bulletins)|
|82J||BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1Xtra & BBC Asian Network||"The Gallery" – All of the online video streaming content|
is controlled here, including studio cameras.
|83A||BBC Asian Network||News studio|
|S31||BBC World Service & BBC Radio 4|
|S32||BBC World Service & BBC Radio 4||Newsday |
The World at One
|S33||BBC Radio 4||Today |
The World Tonight
|S34||BBC World Service||World Briefing|
|S42||BBC World Service & BBC Radio 4|
|S46||BBC World Service & BBC Radio 4|
|S48||BBC World Service & BBC Radio 4|
|SL1||BBC World Service & BBC Radio 4||World Briefing |
Six O'Clock News
|WG1||BBC General News Service (GNS) networked national news bulletins for BBC English Regions|
|Newsroom||Multipurpose||Outside Source (radio)|
(Green screen virtual studio)
BBC News Summary
|B||Multipurpose (mothballed as of July 2020)||The Andrew Marr Show |
BBC World News (12:00–18:30, weekdays), including GMT, Impact, Global, World Have Your Say, Focus on Africa, World Business Report
Victoria Derbyshire Show
|C||BBC World News
|BBC World News |
World Business Report
BBC News at Five (weekdays)
The Film Review (Friday)
World News Today
Worklife (weekdays only)
BBC News Specials
Outside Source (TV)
Beyond 100 Days(Monday-Thursday)
The Briefing (weekdays only)
Business Briefing (weekdays)
|D||Multipurpose||BBC London News |
BBC World News
BBC News Channel (emergencies)
|E||BBC News||BBC News at Nine |
BBC News at One
BBC News at Six
BBC News at Five (weekends)
BBC News at Ten
BBC Weekend News
BBC News channel
World Business Report
BBC World News
BBC Newsroom Live (weekdays)
Afternoon Live (weekdays)
The Andrew Marr Show
|G||BBC Weather||CSO (green/blue) studio|
|H||BBC Weather||CSO (green/blue) studio|
BBC World News (now Mothballed as of July 2020)
|Plasma newsroom mezzanine position |
Outside Source (TV)
BBC News at Five (segments)
Election Today/Election Tonight
Victoria Derbyshire Show (news updates), Reality Check
|K||BBC World Service||BBC Russian, BBC Ukrainian, BBC What's New (African youth bulletin), BBC Hausa, BBC Afrique|
|L||BBC World Service TV||BBC Swahili Dira Ya Dunia (18:00 GMT weekdays), BBC Pashto (13:30 GMT weekdays), BBC Cash Eco, BBC World Service specials (e.g. BBC Persian election results programme 2013)|
|M||BBC World Service TV - CSO (Green screen) studio||Short language bulletins to various World Service partners|
|P||BBC World Service TV - CSO (Green screen) studio||Short language bulletins to various World Service partners|
|V||BBC One||The One Show |
Sunday Morning Live
Rip Off Britain
The Film Show
Sounds of the 80s (BBC Radio 2 & BBC Red Button)
HealthCheck UK Live
|34D||BBC World Service||BBC Arabic Television|
|44D||BBC World Service
(green screen virtual studio)
|BBC Arabic Television until 2019|
BBC Persian Television from November 2019 until approx March 2020
|54D||BBC World Service||BBC Persian Television|
Until programmes air information is subject to change. All times listed are either Greenwich Mean Time or British Summer Time depending on what is being used in London.
The building showcases works of art, most prominently the statues of Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's The Tempest) by Eric Gill. Their choice was fitting since Prospero was a magician and scholar, and Ariel a spirit of the air, in which radio waves travel. There was, reportedly, controversy over some features of the statues when built and they were said to have been modified. They were reported to have been sculpted by Gill as God and Man, rather than Prospero and Ariel, and that there is a small carved picture of a beautiful girl on the back of Prospero. Additional carvings of Ariel are on the exterior in many bas-reliefs, some by Gill, others by Gilbert Bayes. The reception area contains a statue of 'The sower' by Gill.
Several works of art were commissioned by the BBC for the refurbishment of Broadcasting House, at an overall cost of more than £4 million. Among these is World, a pavement artwork by the Canadian-born architect and artist Mark Pimlott. According to the BBC, the work "reflects the global dimension of the BBC’s broadcasting and consists of over 750 stone flags inscribed with place names from around the world, as well as those from history, mythology and fantasy. The artwork is enhanced by elegant steel lines of longitude and latitude, a subtle scheme of small embedded lights and some audio installation linked to key output from the World Service."
On the roof of the John Peel wing, mirroring the radio mast, is Breathing, a cone-shaped glass structure reaching into the sky to the same height as the mast. It was sculpted by Jaume Plensa as a memorial to journalists killed in the line of duty. It includes words from a poem by James Fenton and is illuminated day and night. At 10 pm daily, in line with the BBC News at Ten, a column of light shines 900 metres (3,000 ft) into the sky. It was officially unveiled on 16 June 2008 by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Broadcasting House in literatureEdit
The earliest use of Broadcasting House as a setting in fiction would seem to be in the 1934 detective novel Death at Broadcasting House by Val Gielgud and Holt Marvell (Eric Maschwitz) , where an actor is found strangled in Studio 7C. Broadcasting House is a central feature in Penelope Fitzgerald's novel Human Voices, published in 1980, where the lead characters work for the BBC during the Second World War. It is also the work place of Alexander Wedderburn in A.S. Byatt's 1995 novel Still Life, and Sam Bell in Ben Elton's 1999 novel Inconceivable, and also that of the evil nazi-sympathiser Ezzy Pound in Michael Paraskos's 2016 novel In Search of Sixpence. The building is well realised as a setting in Nicola Upson's 2015 mystery novel London Rain.
The head of BBC history, Robert Seatter, has said George Orwell in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), "reputedly based his notorious Room 101 from" the novel "on a room he had worked in whilst at the BBC."
On 7 November 2017 a statue of Orwell, sculpted by the British sculptor Martin Jennings, was unveiled, outside Broadcasting House. The wall behind the statue is inscribed with the following phrase: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear". These are words from his proposed preface to Animal Farm and a rallying cry for the idea of free speech in an open society.
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- "Sixth floor – Effects studio". Broadcasting House 1932. Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories (ORBEM). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
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- "Fourth floor – 4A, 4B and office". Broadcasting House 1932. Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories (ORBEM). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- "Third floor – 3A and 3B". Broadcasting House 1932. Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories (ORBEM). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- "Third floor – Studio 3D". Broadcasting House 1932. Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories (ORBEM). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- "Third floor – Studio 3E". Broadcasting House 1932. Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories (ORBEM). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- "Lower Ground floor – Concert Hall". Broadcasting House 1932. Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories (ORBEM). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- Hines, Mark (2008). The Story of Broadcasting House, Home of the BBC (First ed.). London: Merrell. p. 121. ISBN 978-1-85894-421-0. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
- "Sub-Basement – Studio BA". Broadcasting House 1932. Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories (ORBEM). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- "Sub-Basement – Studio BB". Broadcasting House 1932. Old Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories (ORBEM). Retrieved 18 October 2012.
- Priming the pips in studio 40B
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- Fitzgerald, Penelope (1999). Human Voices. London: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-395-95617-5.
- Byatt, A.S. (1985). Still Life. New York City: Simon & Schuster. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-684-83503-7.
- Elton, Ben (26 May 2010). Inconceivable. Dell. ISBN 978-0-3077-5554-4.
- Paraskos, Michael. In Search of Sixpence (London: Friction Press, 2016) ISBN 978-0-9929247-8-2
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- "History of the BBC: Observer reveals MI5 vetting of BBC staff". BBC Online. 18 August 1985. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
- Bignell, Jonathan; Lacey, Stephen (12 May 2014). British Television Drama: Past, Present and Future. Springer. ISBN 978-1-1373-2758-1. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Broadcasting House, London.|
- Broadcasting House at BBC Online
- History of the BBC – Broadcasting House at BBC Online
- Press Office Key Facts – 1932 Broadcasting House at BBC Online
- Broadcasting House – a potted history
- Old BBC Radio Broadcasting Equipment and Memories – Broadcasting House in 1932
- Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1265570)". National Heritage List for England.
- Cover of the 13 May 1932 issue of the Radio Times, depicting the newly-opened Broadcasting House, by Adrian Hill