BBC Television Centre

From Academic Kids

BBC Television Centre (sometimes abbreviated TVC or TC) in London is home to the vast majority of BBC television output and, since 1998, almost all of the corporation's national TV and radio news output by BBC News.

Opened in 1960, the building is four miles west of Central London at Shepherd's Bush. It was the worlds first purpose built building for television production.

The building

The building features a distinctive circular central block (often affectionately referred to as the concrete doughnut) around which are studios, offices, engineering areas and the new News Centre. In the centre of the main block is a statue 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. Over time various extensions have been added to the building to maximise the site's potential. Increasingly the corporation has had to seek further accomdation elsewhere, such as the nearby BBC White City. This new complex comprises White City One, a 25,000 square metre office building, as well as the BBC's new Broadcast and Media Centres.

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). These 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 and Doctor Who. Since the early 1990s however the studios have been home to few dramas, as drama production moved almost entirely onto film and Television Centre is a video-based production environment.

In 2008 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 managing director of BBC Radio, Liz Forgan, who resigned after failing to dissuade the governors. The 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.


On March 3 2001, a terrorist bomb located in a taxi exploded in front of Television Centre. 11 people were seriously injured in the blast. The attack was attributed to dissident Irish Republican terrorists. It was speculated at the time that the Panorama programme which named those suspected of involvement in the Omagh bombing was the motive for the attack.

Television Centre has suffered recently from power cuts, which due to the 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 powercuts 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, 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.

In the long term, the future of Television Centre as a BBC building is in question; Playout and transmission operations were moved out of the building in 2004 and 2005 to the new BBC Broadcast Centre at White City, News operations are due to move out in 2008 to Broadcasting House, Sports staff are expected to move to Manchester around 2008, and large numbers of office staff are expected to move to the new Media Village. As the studios are increasingly under-utilised it is quite possible that in 20 years time the BBC will have much less use for one of its most distinctive sites.

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