BBC Television Centre

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Template:Infobox building The BBC Television Centre at White City in West London was the headquarters of BBC Television between 1960 and 2013. Officially opened on 29 June 1960, it is one of the most readily recognisable facilities of its type, having appeared as the backdrop for many BBC programmes. Parts of the building are Grade II listed, including the central ring and Studio 1. Most of the BBC's national television and radio news output came from the Television Centre (TVC) with most recorded television output from the nearby Broadcast Centre at 201 Wood Lane, care of Red Bee Media. Live television events from studios and routing of national and international sporting events took place within the Television Centre before being passed to the Broadcast Centre for transmission.

It was announced on 21 September 2010 that the BBC would cease broadcasting from the Television Centre in 2013. On 13 June 2011 the BBC announced that the Television Centre was on the market, and that it was 'inviting bid proposals from people looking for a conventional, freehold property or those interested in a joint venture', suggesting that it may yet remain connected to the BBC. The radio and television news departments moved to Broadcasting House in central London, the home of BBC Radio, as part of a reorganisation. On 16 July 2012 it was announced that the complex had been sold to property developers Stanhope plc for around £200 million.

BBC News moved to new facilities in Broadcasting House on 18 March 2013, but the building remained in active use with many programmes filming in the studios until it closed officially on 31 March 2013. It was one of the largest such facilities in the world and was the second oldest operating television studio in the United Kingdom, after Granada Studios, where the BBC's main commercial rival, Granada Television, was based for many decades.

The building is Template:Convert west of central London. The nearest Underground stations are White City and Wood Lane. The building is in the parish of St Michael and St George, White City.


On Friday 1 April 1949, Norman Collins, the 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.<ref name=list>BBC Television Centre - History</ref> Riverside Studios in Hammersmith were used from 1954.<ref name=list/>

It was planned to be Template:Convert, but turned out to be twice as big. On 24 August 1956 the main contract was awarded to Higgs and Hill, which built The London Studios (ITV) in 1972. The building was planned to cost £9m.<ref name=list/>

When it opened, the Director of BBC television was Gerald Beadle, and the first programme broadcast was First Night with David Nixon in Studio Three.

In 1997 the BBC News Centre was opened, 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.Template:Citation needed Birt's decision caused problems, for example some politicians accustomed to travelling to interviews at Broadcasting House were reluctant to make the journey to White City,Template:Citation needed despite being only Template:Convert west.

The building

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

Circular shape

The building featured a central circular block (officially known as the Main Block, but often referred to by staff as the "doughnut") around which were studios, offices, engineering areas and the News Centre. In the centre of the main block was a statue designed by T.B. Huxley-Jones of Helios, the Greek god of the sun, to symbolise the radiation of television around the world. At the foot of the statue were two reclining figures, symbolising sound and vision, the components of television. It was originally a fountain, but owing to the building's unique shape it was too noisy for the staff in the overlooking offices, and there were problems with water leakage into the videotape area directly beneath. Even though there was a foundation stone marked 'BBC 1956' in the basement of the main building, construction began in 1951.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Various extensions have been added.

Increasingly the BBC had to seek accommodation elsewhere, such as the nearby BBC White City complex comprising White City One, a 25,000 square metre office building, and the adjacent Broadcast and Media Centres. With the migration of staff and functions to complexes in Salford and London W1, White City One was mothballed in March 2013.


The overall design from the air appeared to resemble 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.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> An article in The BBC Quarterly, July 1946, proposed a circular design, several years before Dawbarn drew up his plans.

The building was commissioned in 1949 with work starting in 1950. However, government restrictions on building through its loan sanction and licensing of materials ensured that building was halted until 1953, so the BBC remodelled the former Gaumont Studios at Lime Grove, the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith and in 1953, Shepherd's Bush Empire. Work resumed in 1953 on the TVC scenery block (Stage 1) and work began in 1954 on the canteen block (Stage 2), which doubled as a rehearsal space.

Work on Stage 3, the central circular office block and studios, began in March 1955 on TC4, 5 and 2. The shells of TC1, TC6 and TC7 were constructed around the same time but they were not fitted out until a few years later. BBC Television Centre officially opened with TC3 operational on 29 June 1960.

Arthur Hayes worked on the building from 1956 to 1970 and was responsible for the creation of the iconic 'BBC Television Centre' lettering on the façade of Studio 1. The lettering was later used all over the building, even in tile work outside lift entrances. Demands from Broadcasting House meant that Hayes had less time than he had thought to design a decor for the façade, leading to him puncturing a scale foam model of the wall with drawing pins, and thus the birth of the iconic 'Atomic Dots': there are 26 across the façade of Studio 1, each one backlit and clearly visible at night.


The centre's studios wereTemplate:When run by BBC Studios and Post Production, a wholly owned commercial subsidiary. The studios were numerous and varying in size. All studios were often abbreviated to initials, such as TC1 (Television Centre 1) for Studio 1.

The studios hosted a wide variety of TV programmes 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, and big complex live productions such as Children in Need and Comic Relief. Over the years they were home to some of the world's most famous TV programmes including Fawlty Towers, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Blue Peter, Absolutely Fabulous, classic Doctor Who and most of the best known BBC drama series. From the 1980s the use of the complex for such productions rapidly declined with 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 was a video-based, multi-camera production environment.

At 7 pm on 22 March 2013, a special edition of The One Show was broadcast from the front of Television Centre followed by the building's last live broadcast Madness Live: Goodbye Television Centre and special programming to mark the end of the BBC at TVC, with the official last day at the end of that month.

In April 2013 a campaign was started to keep studios TC1 to TC8 open.

Studio 0

117 square metres (1260 ft²)

Opened in 1989, productions included for UK Play and during its later life was equipped for producing virtual reality programmes. It was home to Liquid News between 2000 and 2002 and CBeebies invision continuity between 2002 and 2008. After that it was used by BBC Research

Studio 1

995 square metres (10,250 ft²)

Opened on 15 April 1964 and was 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 was equipped for HDTV production (as were Studio Four, Studio Six and Studio Eight)<ref name=ResourcesHD>Template:Cite web Template:Dead link</ref>

Studio 2

223 square metres (2,400 ft²)

Opened in late 1960, it housed comedy programmes such as That Was The Week That Was. It was not converted to colour and closed in 1969, with the space being used as storage, but reopened in 1981. It was used by BBC News until they moved in 1997, and has played host to the Sport and Children's department. It was the main studio used for Blue Peter for the 2007 and 2008 series. It was vacated following the move of both departments to MediaCityUK

Studio 3

594 square metres (6,390 ft²)

Opened on 29 June 1960. It was designed as a drama studio and had panels and fittings that made it customised. The walls were slightly thicker, so it could block out the noise from the Hammersmith & City line of the London Underground. It housed the first programme and was the first studio to be completed. It was upgraded to colour in 1969

Studio 4

585 square metres (6,300 ft²)

Opened in January 1961, TC4 was similar in design and layout to its neighbour, TC3. It was designed as a light entertainment studio and contained a rather unusual sound system called ambiophony. It was upgraded to colour in 1970 and to HD and surround sound in 2008. It was home to many BBC sitcoms and the cancelled talk show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

Programmes recorded or transmitted included: Template:Columns-list

Studio 5

223 square metres (2,400 ft²)

Opened in August 1961, it was used for the first half of its life by broadcasts from BBC Schools. There was an adjacent area used for schools programming that linked in with the studio. It was converted to colour around 1973, about the same time as schools broadcasts as a whole. It was closed briefly during the mid-1980s, and reopened in 1987 following a two-year refurbishment. It was the home of BBC Sport's programmes until 2012 when the Sports department moved to MediaCityUK.

Programmes recorded or transmitted included: Template:Columns-list

Studio 6

598 square metres (6,440 ft²)

Opened in July 1967 to coincide with BBC Two's switch to colour. It was the first to be equipped with colour cameras. It was a strange design: it was originally to be split in two by a large removable wall, but this idea was abandoned. The gallery was moved in 1993 and the old gallery became home to the BBC Red Button control room. Upgraded to HD in July 2010, the first 3D capable studio in the UK. Home to children's programmes Live & Kicking and Dick and Dom in da Bungalow, and Pointless.

Programmes recorded or transmitted included: Template:Columns-list

Studio 7

223 square metres (2,400 ft²)

Opened in 1962 and was used for a variety of programmes. Home to children's programming such as Going Live!, before being home to BBC News in 1997. It was the home of the BBC Breakfast programme until 2012 and the BBC News at Six bulletin until 2013, with other bulletins based at N6 in the News Centre. It was vacated on 15 March 2013, following the refit of the extension to Broadcasting House, to where the BBC News department and newsroom moved.

Programmes recorded or transmitted included: Template:Columns-list

Studio 8

602 square metres (6,480 ft²)

Opened in 1967, noted as the best studio for television producers to use. It was the size that most programmes wanted and, building on the experience when building the other studios, was the best. The galleries and studios were laid out perfectly and in a layout producers liked. It became the studio for comedy and sitcoms, because of its audience seating arrangements and size. It was converted to HD in January 2007

Programmes recorded or transmitted included: Template:Columns-list

Studio 9

84 square metres (900 ft²)

Built in 1955 as a foyer area of the restaurant block, becoming a store area, converted to a studio in 1996 for Children's BBC. The location was highly convenient: it allowed the invision continuity to be relocated from the "broom cupboard" (Continuity Announcer's booth) to a roomier studio. It opened onto the Blue Peter Garden allowing presentation to take place there. It was an odd shape, and was used for invision continuity for CBBC until 2004, when they broadcast links for the CBBC Channel only. All invision continuity was dropped in 2006, and it was used for programmes such as Sam & Mark's TMi Friday and SMart.

Studio 10

111 square metres (1200 ft²)

Built as N1 in 1969, it was used for the BBC1 daytime news bulletins, and the home of BBC World (previously BBC World Service News) from 1993. Closed in spring 1999 when news bulletins moved to the News Centre section of Television Centre, and renamed as TC10. Used for some programmes by channel UK Play until the station's closure. Between 2004 and 2006 it was used for invision continuity for CBBC on BBC One and BBC Two, before being used by some programming for CBBC such as Level Up. From 2010 to 2011 it was the home of CBeebies.

Studio 11

186 square metres (2000 ft²)

Built as N2 in 1969, it was used for the BBC2 daytime news bulletins. Extended in 1985 to include props store and adjacent lobby, it became home to the Six O'Clock and Nine O'Clock News. In spring 1999, following the completion of the News Centre spur of Television Centre, the news moved out and it was renamed TC11. In 2002 it became home to Liquid News and later to the other BBC Three news programmes 60 Seconds and The 7 O'Clock News. It briefly played host to the domestic BBC News bulletins while their studios were refurbished in 2006, before becoming general purpose. It was home to Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two

Studio 12

56 square metres (600 ft²)

Originally a music store, converted into a studio in 2004 for CBBC programmes. Used for Sportsround for some years, but converted into presentation studio in 2006. Used for invision continuity for CBBC and changed into an invision continuity studio in summer 2007. The set was transferred to a mini studio in the East Tower. It was used by BBC Research

Pres A

65 square metres (704 ft²)

Opened in 1960, designed for in-vision continuity for BBC 1, but was used as such for only three years. Became weather studio prior to the move to the BBC Weather Centre in 1990 (also in Television Centre), following which it was used by Children's BBC to supplement presentation from the 'Broom Cupboard', and was used for slots such as birthdays and public holidays. Became full-time home of Children's BBC in 1994 following the vacation of the 'Broom Cupboard'. It closed following CBBC's move to TC9.

Pres B

65 square metres (704 ft²)

Opened in 1964, designed for in-vision continuity for BBC 2, but that did not use in-vision continuity for more than a few months after launch. Became a general purpose studio housing small productions such as Points of View, the Film series with Barry Norman and The Old Grey Whistle Test. It closed in 1996.

News studios

In addition to these studios, BBC News used a number of studios for the frequent news bulletins. These studios have a different naming system owing to their permanent usage and were not included on most studio lists, as they were unavailable for hire.

  • N1 – Previously BBC One daytime bulletins. Became TC10
  • N2 – Previously BBC Two daytime bulletins. Became TC11
  • N3 – Small studio off main newsroom, before being made part of newsroom, separated by glass panels.
  • N4 – Studio, became part of the BBC Club bar
  • N5 – Originally studio for BBC Arabic Television service, which closed in 1996. It was a storeroom until 2001 when it was used for the BBCi service, then from 2007 as a home for Click prior to its move to Broadcasting House in 2012.
  • N6 – Formerly home to BBC News at One, BBC News at Ten and the BBC News channel.
  • N7 – Name not used, to avoid confusion with TC7, which housed 'big' news programmes such as BBC Breakfast, Working Lunch, and Newsnight.
  • N8 – Home to BBC World News prior to its move to Broadcasting House in 2013, and by the BBC News channel from 1999 to 2008. BBC News channel still used the studio to allow the BBC News at Ten to rehearse in N6 until 2013
  • N9 – Home to BBC World News until 2008, used as a contingency when N6/N8 unavailable due to technical work and for election coverage
  • N10 – Formerly used by BBC Three to produce 60 Seconds


In February 1996, the electricity and heating were 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 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 was being used for emergency purposes only as it had become 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 chimneys caught fire,<ref name=Chaos/> bringing TV output to a halt. After the fire the turbines were no longer used regularly.

Listed status

The development of the Westfield shopping centre nearby led to a sharp rise in property prices and placed the Television Centre under threat. In February 2008, with an amendment in November, English Heritage requested listed status for the scenery workshop, the canteen block adjoining the Blue Peter garden, and the central building.<ref name=Heritage>Template:Cite web</ref> Previously, under a longstanding deal between the BBC and English Heritage the building was not listed to allow the BBC to make changes necessary in a broadcasting centre.Template:Citation needed In return, if the BBC left it agreed that the fabric of the building would be restored to its mid-60s state, and English Heritage would list notable features.<ref name=BECTU08>BECTU newsletter BBC Informer, July 2008</ref>

On 17 June 2009 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, received Grade II listed status from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.<ref name=NHLE>Template:NHLE</ref> The 'atomic dots' and name of Studio 1, and the cantilevered porch on its exterior were noted as important architectural features of that building.<ref name=BDOnline/> The Department did not consider the other buildings, including all other studios, scenery block and canteen of sufficient special interest to warrant listing.<ref name=BDOnline>English Heritage (Listing) Adviser's Report BD Online, 22 June 2009</ref><ref name=GradeII/> Making the protection announcement, the 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."<ref name=GradeII>Template:Cite web</ref>

Future uses

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Television Centre on 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 intended to "reduce the size of the property portfolio in west London by selling BBC Television Centre by the end the financial year 2012/13",<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> with the then Director General, Mark Thompson, saying the plan would deliver "a smaller, but fitter, BBC" in the digital age.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref> A BBC spokeswoman has added that "this is a full scale disposal of BBC Television Centre and we won't be leasing it back".<ref name=Reuters1>Template:Cite news</ref> The corporation officially put Television Centre on the property market in November 2011.<ref name=TVCentreMove2011-2>Template:Cite news</ref><ref name=TVCentreMove2011-1>Template:Cite news</ref>

BBC Sport and BBC Children's moved to MediaCityUK in Salford Quays in 2012, with Children's Learning, Radio 5 Live and part of BBC Future Media & Technology. The move saw up to 1,500 posts at TV Centre and 700 posts at New Broadcasting House relocate to Salford Quays. BBC Breakfast, part of BBC News, moved to Salford in April 2012.

On 16 July 2012, the BBC agreed to sell the site to Stanhope plc for £200 million. The building closed on 31 March 2013 and will be redeveloped to include flats, office space, a cinema and hotels.<ref>BBC - Spaces & Places: Television Centre - shaping the next chapter</ref> Studios 1, 2 and 3 will be refurbished and leased to production companies, including the BBC, from 2014. The BBC's commercial businesses, BBC Worldwide and BBC Studios and Post Production will lease back some office space in the part formerly occupied by BBC News.<ref>Template:Cite news
Template:Cite news
The Masterplan, (Redevelopers' official website)</ref>

All BBC News, national radio and BBC World Service broadcasts were relocated to Broadcasting House between July 2012 and March 2013, which is said to include one of the largest live newsrooms in the world.<ref name=BHFuture>The story of Broadcasting House BBC</ref> The final news broadcasts from Television Centre took place on 18 March 2013, when the BBC News channel and remaining news output completed the move to Broadcasting House. This was one of the final live broadcasts from the building.

A 90-minute documentary titled Tales of Television Centre was broadcast on BBC Four in 2012 ahead of the move out. On 22 March 2013, BBC Four devoted its evening schedule to programmes commemorating Television Centre. At the heart of the evening was Goodbye Television Centre a two-hour history presented by former BBC One controller and BBC chairman Michael Grade. The last live programme broadcast was Madness Live: Goodbye Television Centre, shown that day on BBC Four.

In March 2013, the BBC and Stanhope formed a joint venture, Television Centre Developments Ltd [1] to manage the redevelopment of the 14-acre site. Only three of the eight production studios were earmarked for continued use by the BBC, with the rest being demolished for flats, and it was argued that this would leave insufficient facilities in the capital for independent television production, and a Save Television Centre Studios website [2] and petition [3] was set up.

In December 2013 Stanhope was granted planning permission from the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. [4]

Major events

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Television Centre on Election Night, 4 May 2005

Terrorist target

Template:See also

On 4 March 2001, a bomb placed outside the news centre exploded, with no fatalities. It was attributed to the Real IRA and the culprits were eventually caught. The front of the building suffered moderate damage, but was soon repaired.

Power failures

Television Centre has suffered from power cuts that affected normal broadcasting, but these were not seen as a systemic problem.Template:Citation needed One such power cut caused the launch night of BBC2, on 20 April 1964, to be cancelled; programmes began the next day.

A large power failure occurred on 20 June 2000 at approximately 5pm, affecting the whole Television Centre resulting in services such as BBC Two and BBC Radio 4 coming off air, and BBC News 24 went off air before being relocated to the BBC's Westminster studios. The Six O'Clock News suffered severe lighting problems and had to be cancelled half way through, and the BBC's backup generator caught fire. Troubles were experienced in the South East region, as Newsroom South East started later than planned. The fire alarms went off at Television Centre later that day, leaving only a skeleton crew. Eventually many programmes returned, from different locations: Newsnight was presented from the main news studio with intermittent technical problems. The failure was due to a substation in Shepherd's Bush and normal services resumed the following day.

Just before 8am on 28 November 2003 an electrical fault caused some equipment to overheat, which set off fire alarms.<ref name=Chaos>Template:Cite news</ref> Although there was no fire the fault caused widespread power cuts and prevented backup generators from providing alternative power. All output was affected with services transferred across London to alternative studios. The One O'Clock News and BBC News 24 broadcast for much of the day from the BBC's Millbank Studios,<ref name=Chaos/> and the Today programme and Five Live's Breakfast morning radio shows fell off air for 15 minutes.<ref name=Chaos/> The Millbank Studios are a fall-back for news operations in the event of TVC failure,Template:Citation needed and are continually recording the last hour of the BBC News Channel output (less in-vision clock) for this purpose.Template:Citation needed 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.


File:BBC Television Centre Question Time BNP Protest.jpg
Protesters objecting to the appearance of Nick Griffin on Question Time outside Television Centre in 2009

Programmes have been interrupted by protesters gaining access to Television Centre. In 1988, a group of lesbian protestors campaigning against Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 gained access to the studio of the Six O'Clock News during a live broadcast. Newsreader Sue Lawley continued with the broadcast, while co-presenter Nicholas Witchell tackled the intruders off-camera.

On 30 May 2006 during the live broadcast of National Lottery: Jet Set the studio was invaded by members of the Fathers 4 Justice campaign group, causing the show to go briefly off air while the protesters were removed.

For Question Time on 22 October 2009, the BBC invited the leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, onto the programme for the first time causing heated public debate and strong protests outside the studios. Television Centre had its security breached with around 30 anti-fascist protesters storming the reception area and several hundred protesters gathering outside. Police and security staff were forced to close gates leading into the Centre and form barriers to prevent any further breaches of security.



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