The BBC Television Centre in West London has been the home of BBC Television and News output for almost the last half-century. In an announcement on 18 October, BBC Director General Mark Thompson confirmed that this iconic building is to be sold off in a series of cost-cutting measures which include the loss of up to 2500 staff over the next six years.
Thompson said his plan would deliver “a smaller, but fitter, BBC” in the digital age, but made it clear that audiences could expect more repeats and fewer original programmes. This is bad news all round. The BBC has created some of the best and most ground-breaking shows of recent years, among them Doctor Who, Life on Mars, Casanova, and Queer as Folk. Now it looks as though the schedule will be even more littered with repeats of ‘Allo ‘Allo and Last of the Summer Wine, rather than developing new content.
And the sale of the flagship Television Centre in Wood Lane, West London, will change the architectural landscape of the area forever.
The Television Centre was designed by architect Graham Dawbarn. Given an extensive brief to turn the site from the home of the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 into a world-class production and broadcasting facility, he headed straight to the pub for a think. With a pint helping the process, he doodled a triangle on the back of an envelope. Then he added a question mark in the middle of the triangle – and realized that a question-mark shape was exactly what was needed to house the studios, production galleries, dressing rooms and offices.
The loss of such a national landmark will also be a shock for the thousands of people who have regularly queued on the pavement outside to join the audiences for shows such as Any Dream Will Do and Never Mind the Buzzcocks.
Farewell, BBC Television Centre. You will be greatly missed.
Words and photos © Carole Gordon 2007