BBC - Television Centre

Home Page / Television Home Page / Anna at the BBC

May 2018 - Radio Times 'Feedback'

Radio Times 'Feedback' Article

Questions about Television Centre still being raised by interested readers of the Radio Times!

March 18th 2018 - Television Centre 'Bistro' Area!

Bistro Area at the BBC

Sourced from Hospitality & Catering News

Aerial View

With thanks to for the fabulous aerial view of TC and the East Tower (where I worked)

31st March, 2013 - Renting Television Centre (back) at £3m p.a.

BBC to spend £3m renting TVC back articleBBC to spend £3m renting TVC back article

BBC to spend £3million a year... renting back Television Centre it's just left

- Corporation has admitted it will lease back 'a significant' part of former home
- Critics say TV Centre was sold to pay for series of other property 'blunders'
- One BBC star said: 'It is insane'

By Chris Hastings and Miles Goslett | |

The BBC’s closure and sale of Television Centre has been branded ‘insane’ after it emerged the Corporation will continue to spend more than £3 million a year renting back ‘a significant’ part of the premises. Last week the Corporation staged a series of lavish goodbyes to the iconic building, affectionately known as The Doughnut, which included emotional tributes from star names including Bruce Forsyth and Terry Wogan, a four-hour television special and even a concert by chart-toppers Madness.

But far from vacating the premises, which have been the broadcaster’s headquarters for more than half a century, the BBC plans to fork out licence fee payers’ money to rent back what the Corporation last night admitted was ‘a significant’ part of the 14-acre site.

Entrance to Television Centre Gate

Costly: The BBC admitted last night it will rent back 'a significant' part of the 14-acre site at the former Television Centre - image © EPA sourced from original on-line article

Details of the arrangements have infuriated critics who claim TV Centre, the listed building which was home to classic BBC programmes such as Morecambe and Wise, Fawlty Towers and Strictly Come Dancing, has been sacrificed to foot the bill for a series of other high-profile property ‘blunders.’

The BBC has spent more than £1 billion on a controversial revamp of Broadcasting House in Central London, just five miles away from TV Centre; while its decision to relocate key departments including children’s programming and sport to Salford, to ensure its shows are less London-centric, is expected to end up costing just under £900 million, including contentious staff relocation packages.

One BBC star, who asked not to be named said: ‘The BBC has had to sell TV Centre to balance the books. What other company in the world would voluntarily decentralise from such a perfect location and enter into decades of deal making with commercial landlords. It is insane.’

Another BBC presenter said: ‘It  is easy to imagine the fun that  Robert Peston or another BBC business reporter would have with a company that sold off its premises in a great media fanfare and then leased them back.

‘Regardless of doubts about the financial sense of the deal, the decision may encourage the feeling among viewers and staff that this is another example of BBC chiefs not getting the best value for licence payers.’

Private developer Stanhope paid £200 million for a 999-year lease on the West London site last July, £100 million less than the BBC had initially hoped to raise.

It plans to develop a hotel, office space, leisure facilities and up to 1,000 apartments there.

As part of its deal with Stanhope the BBC has agreed to lease the entire area for the next two years while staff carry out ‘decommissioning’ work. But even when the new owners take possession in 2015 the BBC will continue to rent 20 per cent of the site. The Corporation will pay to refurbish and then rent back three studios including the huge Studio One which is currently home to ‘shiny-floor’ shows such as Strictly Come Dancing.

Its commercial arm BBC Worldwide will also move its entire operation to a significant part of the building, known as Stage 6.

In the meantime the BBC is having to fork out extra cash to find temporary homes for some of its most popular shows. Strictly Come Dancing is being relocated to Elstree and Later With Jools Holland is going to Maidstone in Kent. These type of sale and leaseback deals are usually struck to provide a significant cash flow boost and allow a company to operate from the same premises while avoiding some of the obligations associated with owning the property.

But when TV Centre was initially put on the market in 2007, a BBC spokesman said unequivocally: ‘This is a full-scale disposal and we won’t be leasing it back.’ However, the deal struck with Stanhope includes renting 122,000 sq ft. Experts say the market rate is about £30 per square foot which would leave the BBC with a bill of just over £3 million a year.

Critics claim the Corporation would not have had to enter into such a deal had it not overspent on other property deals. In 2010 the National Audit Office criticised the Corporation for embarking on vast building projects without ‘clear assessments of the intended benefits in terms of value for money.’

John Whittingdale, the Tory chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said: ‘At first sight it is difficult to see how this will represent a significant saving for licence fee payers. Indeed, I would be concerned that it might actually end up costing more.’

A BBC spokesman said: ‘The sale of Television Centre has already secured the sum of £200 million and will deliver further annual savings of about £30 million a year by 2015. 

‘We believe this to be the best deal for licence fee payers, allowing  TV Centre to continue to make an important contribution to British broadcasting.’ Source : Daily Mail

Friday, 22nd March, 2013

Goodby Television Centre Radio Times BBC1 and BBC4

After the explosively damaging 'Tales' (see below) came the final farewell with 'Madness' officiating the closing of Television Centre's historic home after 53 years! 'Tales' was not shown again even on the eve of departure. - Image sourced and scanned from Radio Times magazine.

17th May, 2012 - Tales of Television Centre

Tales of Television Cetre Radio Times 2012

Revelations of sex and drugs at TV Centre in new BBC 4 doc

Lights! Camera! Action! Tales of Television Centre is a feature length special for BBC Four following the life of the BBC hub across the years. It includes revelations about sex and drugs at large on the premises.

The film, directed by Richard Marson, takes a tour around the building, with stars - from Pans People to Doctor Who's assistants - and crafts people giving their anecdotes about each section from the doughnut to the canteen.

Contributors include Sir David Frost, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Joan Bakewell, Jeremy Paxman, Sir Terry Wogan, Esther Rantzen, Angela Rippon, Biddy Baxter, Edward Barnes, Sarah Greene, Waris Hussein, Judith Hann, Maggie Philbin, John Craven, Zoe and Johnny Ball.

The documentary unearths historic complaints about "herbal smells" in the corridors and Play School presenters smoking joints before going on screen.

The programme reveals what went on in some of the stars' dressing rooms, with former Doctor Who actress Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant, saying, "People were bonking all over the BBC. Everybody was doing it on the premises."

As well as anecdotes and revelations, there is  memorable, rarely seen (and in some cases newly recovered) archive material, including moments from studio recordings of classic programmes like Vanity Fair, Till Death Us Do Part, Top of the Pops and Dr Who, plus vintage behind-the-scenes footage.

"Yes it's bricks and mortar, " says director Marson. "But it was a also a world within a world. Everything was under one roof. It was like a big family."

Marson started off as a floor assistant in 1987, working on Going Live and Top of the Pops and went on to become the director of Blue Peter before leaving in 2007.

TC For Sale

The TV Centre is up for sale and people have already started moving out of the building with the aim of it being empty in 2014. The film is being previewed at the BFI on 15 May.

Plan of TVC

Apparently this sketch was found in a skip! Full story can be found here / Official handbook here

Thank you to David Downes for this lovely image of Television Centre.

Goodbye Television Centre (as we know it)!

So it's 'goodbye' twice then? The year I left (1977) and when it was finally closed down on March 31st, 2013! An excellent blog by Phil Coomes can be found here and a comprehensive Daily Mail article here

Television Centre end announcement

2012 - Television Centre - A reflection by BBC 4

BBC Four reflects on Television Centre

Written by Mike Watkins, images courtesy of BBC. Children In Need 1991 screengrab BBC TV - Source ATV Today

It was planned in the 1940s, beaten to being the first purpose built TV Studio in operation by ITV in Manchester, but for 52 years London’s BBC Television Centre has not just been a studio facility, it became as famous as the programmes made there. This week (13th May, 2012) the BFI and BBC Four celebrate the West London 14 acre complex that has been home to everything from lavish drama to live variety. It was a variety show, which kicked off the broadcasts from TVC – its shorthand name – on the 29th June 1960. First Night showcased the new building with song and dance taking place across the complex.

“Designed by Graham Dawbarn and built in 1960, it lies four miles outside central London at Shepherds Bush. A distinctive circular main block – affectionately known in-house as the ‘doughnut’ – houses technical areas and equipment, together with facilities for artists and administrative offices. “Grouped around it are studios, linked by a covered walkway to a scenery block to allow swift movement of scenery. The sculpture in the central garden of the building shows Helios, the Greek god of the sun. Designed by T. B. Huxley-Jones, and erected in 1960, it represents the radiation of television light around the world. The two reclining figures at the bottom are Sound and Vision, the two components of television.” – The BBC state.

Compilation image of the various stages of Television Centre

Image sourced from and copyrighted to ATV Today as it appears in this article online.

The design by Graham Dawbarn was, and still is, unique in broadcasting. The legend has it that when Dawbarn first looked at the site, he was perplexed about how to fit on the land, with the maximum use of space, a centre with eight studios, production galleries, dressing rooms, three restaurants, camera workshops, recording areas and offices blocks. Sitting in a bar, in 1949, pondering the TVC on the back of an envelope Dawbarn drew the triangular shape of the site on the back. He then drew a question mark in the middle. “He looked at the question mark and in a flash of inspiration realised that it would make the perfect design.” – The BBC state.

The centre has ten studios, eight originals, two added after an extension was built in the 1990s, ranging in size from 110 square metres to the vast Studio TC1 at 995 square metres – the second largest TV studio in Britain. The circle centre has seven floors of office space looking down upon a courtyard. The studios have been home to many popular productions including the original Doctor Who which owes TV Centre for one of its iconic designs. The scenery building and storage docks unique roof, with its futuristic design and circular roof windows, proved to be the inspiration for the interior of the Doctor Who Tardis. (picture right, the roof)

The studios were home to the Michael Parkinson, Parkinson, chat show, including the famous incident with Rod Hull and his bad tempered Emu, the equally bad tempered Basil Fawlty – actor John Cleese – annoying the guests of Fawlty Towers, the revived Generation Game with Bruce Forsyth and later Jim Davidson, Sir Bruce’s other big Saturday night hit, Strictly Come Dancing, comedy with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Not The Nine O’Clock News and Absolutely Fabulous as well as legendary music shows Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test. There was a time when most television was done in a studio, even the outdoor scenes. However with cameras becoming more transportable and technology improving TVC has seen drama production come to an end. The final produced at the site was House of Elliott in the 1990s.

The studios also became famous in their own right, with the exterior beamed into homes via programmes such as Children In Need, Record Breakers, Newsnight, Comic Relief, Going Live!, How Do They Do That?, Grandstand, Live and Kicking and the 1963 Eurovision Song Contest to name just a few – all making the most of the unique outdoor areas of TVC. The most famous outdoor area was possibly the Blue Peter garden, which now shows the sign of the times. The pond has been filled in and the garden removed as production of Blue Peter and many other programmes move elsewhere. “It may be hard to get worked up about bricks and mortar – or 1950s architecture – but this film rams home the brilliance of TVC and what a vital role it’s played in Britain’s cultural life for more than five decades. It should leave you questioning why on earth the Corporation is so keen to let it go.” – Patrick Mulkern, Radio Times. The building was damaged by a car bomb located outside the TVC News Centre in March 2001. Staff evacuated the premises and no-one was injured. The bombing was attributed to dissident Irish Republicans. Now as the BBC prepares to leave TVC BBC Four tells the story of the building by both staff and famous faces, among them Sir David Frost, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Joan Bakewell, Jeremy Paxman, Sir Terry Wogan, Esther Rantzen, Angela Rippon, Biddy Baxter, Edward Barnes, Sarah Greene, Waris Hussein, Judith Hann, Maggie Philbin, John Craven, Zoe and Johnny Ball and much loved faces from Pan’s People and Doctor Who stars Katy Manning, Louise Jameson and Janet Fielding.

An affectionate tribute by the late Terry Wogan which appeared in the Daily Mail's 'Weekend' magazine - as told to John McEntee. Photographs : Ray Burmiston/BBC, Alamy, Getty

More from Terry Wogan :

Why does TVC hold a special place in your heart?

Well, it’s ‘the’ Television Centre! That’s the simple answer. It is home to the Television broadcaster of the world, which is an enormously thrilling thing. When you walk through both Television Centre and New Broadcasting House you really do think, “I have arrived.”

What is your favourite memory from working there?

Well there’s an awful lot. I recorded Blankety Blank, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Would I Lie to You? and The Eurovision Song Contest, to name a few! I’ve been making programmes since the Seventies, well since I arrived over from Ireland really, so there are so many favourite TVC memories. And of course, I’m still doing it today so I’m sure there will be many more.

Do you have any funny or sad anecdotes from TVC?

Lots and lots. Ones that stick are the late Lennie Bennett jokingly bending my microphone! And one time when I was waiting in the main reception area for the taxi with the Dalai Lama, who was wearing his satin robe. When the taxi arrived I heard this lady, with big blonde hair, make an announcement: “Taxi for the Lama! Taxi for the Lama!” Also I can’t forget to mention when I sang The Floral Dance on Top Of The Pops in the 1970s, throwing flowers into the audience.

Did you ever get lost there?

Yes! All the time! I believe TVC was in fact designed on the back of a cigarette packet. I always maintained though that if you walked around TVC long enough you would always find a free office and if you sat in there long enough they would make you Controller!

Why is it such an important building in the history of TV?

In regard to closing TVC, people say it is progress but I say it’s very sad. Children In Need will now have to be filmed in other studios. We will be losing something now it’s closing. People say it’s moving forward, I believe it’s inexplicable. Source : BBC

Page refreshed : 24th May 2018 (G)

Back to Top