BBC Television Centre Visit - Monday 19 March, 2012
CIPR Corporate and Financial Group
Report by Caroline Florence, Media Relations Manager, ICAEW
At a time of immense change at the BBC, members of the CIPR Corporate and Financial group, visited Television Centre before the imminent move to the new Broadcasting House in Portland Place.
Starting off in the tiny weather studio, we learnt that the whole set is self-automated and the various weather forecasters work without an autocue - a major achievement when there are up to 120 broadcasts a day for all BBC channels including World Service. Meteorologists from the Met office work on secondment with BBC staff to ensure that no viewers feel left out no matter where they are in the UK. Watching a live weather report, we were suitably impressed, especially when you know that forecaster Alex Deakin is talking off the cuff with a director speaking to him in his ear and he could have to wrap things up quickly or fill an additional thirty seconds with no warning!
We quickly moved on to view one of eight studios that the BBC has at the Centre. Varying in size, these are hired out by its commercial arm. Each one comes with its own technical team to ensure all equipment such as computerised lighting are looked after. The set was ready for Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model, aired on Sky Living, but none of us were unfortunately spotted as potential candidates.
After a brief whistle stop tour of the newsroom with the News Duty Operations Manager, we were led to the gallery for the main event - watching the 6 o'clock news from behind the scenes. Surprisingly, George Alagiah made quite a few suggestions to the script in the minutes running-up to the programme starting and there was palpable tension as the journalist in Toulouse, who was to be interviewed live for the lead story, went “missing” seconds before 6 o'clock.
As well as producers, each person in charge of a story comes into the gallery to make sure that the piece goes well and to answer any questions, so there were people in and out of the gallery continuously. During the programme itself, everyone was remarkably calm and there was a lot of banter between the studio floor and gallery - especially over a sunset at the Clifton Suspension Bridge during a live piece on the Olympic torch relay route.
To the producers it was a non-eventful programme although the group thought otherwise and remarked at how calm everyone was during a 30 minute programme with a heavy news schedule.
We were then joined for drinks by both Huw Edwards and Hugh Pym who both answered everyone's questions. They ranged from preparation for the forthcoming Budget to whether people can ever be too media trained.
Radio 5Live, Sport and Childrens departments have already moved to Media City in Salford. Other departments, led by the World Service, are starting to move over to Broadcasting House. For members of the group there may be fewer opportunities to accompany spokespeople to White City - but it should be remembered that the Centre was opened in 1960 and the immense change that news gathering and broadcasting has undergone since then needs to be reflected in a modern and purpose built new building for the BBC.