Memories of BBC Television Centre.
March 25, 2013 3:01 AM   Subscribe

Memories of BBC Television Centre. The British Broadcasting Corporation's central production hub for the past fifty years closes this week (though parts of it will reopen soon as a post-production facility). There have been many hagiographies, but this is perhaps the most poignant. It's a building full of the memories of millions, good and bad (SLYT).
posted by feelinglistless (18 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's all part of the larger trend of the BBC increasingly leaving London, but as an objective outside viewer, well... it's not such a good idea. It could dumb down the BBC's content. It's even one with implications on important issues of race.

"There are certain people who at the moment are more accessible and they won’t be in the future – politicians, celebrities, opinion formers. Will we get Will Smith on the sofa in Salford? It would be naive of me to say ‘oh yes, it’ll be fine’. It won’t be as easy as it is now."

(Oh, and the recent BBC shift towards entirely too many Scottish comedians? Not so good.)
posted by markkraft at 3:41 AM on March 25, 2013


I didn't know BBC Studios and Post Production would continue after refurbishment. That does seem on the face of it to make a bit more sense than abandoning the place completely.

But the nostalgia seems a bit misplaced too. It's just a building. The content of these programmes owed nothing to the bricks and mortar; they just happened to be made there rather than somewhere else.
posted by Segundus at 3:44 AM on March 25, 2013


There are certain people who at the moment are more accessible and they won’t be in the future – politicians, celebrities, opinion formers.

Real reasons for the HS2 rail investment being approved: discuss.
posted by jaduncan at 3:58 AM on March 25, 2013


"The content of these programmes owed nothing to the bricks and mortar; they just happened to be made there rather than somewhere else."

One of the world's top cultural centers, with modern, expansive facilities that attracted the best talent, brought them under one roof, and yet valued risktaking?

Where you are can arguably make all the difference.
posted by markkraft at 3:59 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


W12 8QT

.
posted by scruss at 4:02 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


The video did make me feel rather melancholy, which is surprising given that I'm an American and I only lived in the UK for about six weeks. I guess it's a combination of seeing the place so many times in Monty Python's Flying Circus, and knowing that damn near every UK show I grew up loving as a dork for UK comedy and sci-fi, from Fawlty Towers to Doctor Who, was shot there.

It must be a strange moment for English people. For Americans, imagine if most of our TV of the last 50 years all came from the same place, if everything from The Twilight Zone to The Brady Bunch to 20/20 to Game of Thrones was all shot in and broadcast from one iconic building complex. All the crap, all the good stuff, pretty much all of TV. All one place, and shutting down.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:04 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know - I think having the more of the BBC that ends up outside London, the better. British culture is so skewed towards London that if you mapped it, it would look a bit like the sensory homuculus. We need a correction. Radio 4, in my mind, is a perfect exemplar of what's wrong; despite some really interesting material, it's very much a radio station created by and for the home counties. For a major international city, London is an incredibly insular place.
posted by pipeski at 4:07 AM on March 25, 2013


I live about 5 blocks from here (American transplant). Work in TV/Film/Video. And just went to, what I think is the last thing shot in here, a live concert by Richard Thompson that aired on the "lets celebrate and say goodbye to T.C." on the BBC.

Some of the facility is past its prime, but some of the studios are actually world class great rooms that are going to be missed.

Plenty of British tv already came from outside London. Bristol is the long-time home of natural history, one of the BBC's larger world wide exports, for example.

Even on Radio 4, which is indeed very Home Counties (i.e. not even very London, you have to go to BBC London for that vibe), lots of the material is produced by indies outside London. The most interesting thing, a 30 part series on the history Of sound, I just noticed was produced by an outfit on the Scottish east coast.

At some point, though, you have to admit there is a capital. News and sport shows that book lots of travelling through guests, they don't make sense being anywhere else. Technological expertise, rental gear houses, facilities, freelance talent all cluster for a reason. Diversifying by focusing on programming for and from the rest of the country is good, even spending some money to move assets out is good, but at some point the logic hits its limit.

The biggest beneficiary from the move up to Salford, besides Mancunian property developers - Virgin Trains.

There have been billions spent on the move that could have been spent on programming, indeed, programming from and for the variety of regions.
posted by C.A.S. at 4:21 AM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


But where will Jeremy, Richard and James conduct hijinks?
posted by nathancaswell at 4:40 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


But where will Jeremy, Richard and James conduct hijinks?

Dunsfold, Surrey as always
posted by hardcode at 4:52 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The BBC farewell special for those who can watch it.
posted by epo at 4:57 AM on March 25, 2013


It's all part of the larger trend of the BBC increasingly leaving London, but as an objective outside viewer, well... it's not such a good idea. It could dumb down the BBC's content. It's even one with implications on important issues of race.

Greater Manchester is slightly more ethnically diverse than the UK as a whole so I really don't so that as an issue. Sure, Manchester doesn't have the precise same ethnic mix as London but then London doesn't have the same ethnic mix as the country as a whole.

The BBC has class and region diversity issues that are much more obviously apparent than ones of racial diversity.

I don't know - I think having the more of the BBC that ends up outside London, the better. British culture is so skewed towards London that if you mapped it, it would look a bit like the sensory homuculus.

Something that people from outside the UK might miss is that London is the centre of almost everything in some sense or another (for England at least). It's the political capital, the financial capital, where every national newspaper is based (that didn't used to be the case but it is now), the centre of television and radio broadcast media. Most other important English institutions are close by in the rest of the South-East (I have colleagues who commute into London from Cambridge every day and Oxford is actually even closer).

Manchester is culturally speaking England's second city and it doesn't come close. The only comparable situation in Europe (comparing with the US doesn't make sense because it's so big) is what Paris is to France.

So yes, I think it's worthwhile making an effort to move key cultural institutions to other parts of the country. Given that creative industries are likely to remain a key British export, I think it makes sense to spread that activity around when possible. Manchester is already a significant creative hub so I think they're planting in fertile soil.

Manchester is only two hours away even without HS2, if they wanted to be really radical they'd move to Newcastle.
posted by atrazine at 5:06 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've heard that belligerent ghouls run the schools there though.
posted by Mocata at 5:29 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and the recent BBC shift towards entirely too many Scottish comedians? Not so good.

Wait, what?

Also, I was watching a great deal of the BBC4 coverage/goodbye and I kept being struck by how old, white, public school and male most of the guests seemed to be. If the move away from London generates some more diversity and less reliance upon the Old White Men, that can only be a good thing imo.

There is a whole Britain outside London.
posted by kariebookish at 6:45 AM on March 25, 2013


Will SHADO still keep its headquarters underneath?
posted by whuppy at 8:26 AM on March 25, 2013


Nothing about moving BBC facilities outside of London affects the diversity of who is ON the BBC.

Regional powerhouses like Kirsty Wark of Glasgow are just as old, public school, and posh (but not male I admit) as Londoners.

Naturally, a nostalgic look back over 50 years of the BBC will of course be white, public school, and male, as its the past and those who lived it/were affected by it.

50 years from now, it wouldn't be the same, as CBeebies/CBBC/BBC 24 hr news channel viewing would show you at this moment.
posted by C.A.S. at 8:53 AM on March 25, 2013


The lack of regional diversity in the BBC (and much other national culture) is patently obvious to anyone outside the south east bubble. Here in Birmingham we have the second biggest conurbation in the UK and an absolutely miniscule national media presence.

As someone who teaches in the creative industries it's hard to convince kids from the West Midlands that they have any chance at all of a career in TV, film or radio. The move to Salford has been bumpy but it is an essential step along the road of opening up the cultural expectations of people throughout the country.
posted by brilliantmistake at 10:15 AM on March 25, 2013


Mind you, regionalism was something the BBC did rather well back in the 70s and 80s - it struck me as a rather tragic irony that as plans for the new BBC facility in Manchester were being drafted, the Corporation's iconic Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham were being bulldozed down. For me, the idea of a central London hub supported by a number of quite sizeable regional studios has all the hallmarks of a natural evolution, whereas the Manchester move has felt awkwardly imposed and is viewed with some suspicion by the local residents, wary of house-price hikes and few genuine jobs for the community (I live in Manchester city centre itself).

Of course, commercial TV has gone through much the same series of contractions and expansions - for example, Birmingham's once-mighty ATV (later ITV Central) is now little more than office or two split around the Midlands and Manchester's Granada TV (which used to be a powerhouse of light entertainment, drama and news reportage, such as World in Action) is currently in the process of shifting to its new site next to the BBC, although the Granada name is (it would seem) being gradually airbrushed from history.
posted by specialbrew at 12:59 PM on March 25, 2013


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