Last week I grouchily recounted the tale of how, 14 years ago, many BBC radio news programmes were wrenched from the loving arms of mother Broadcasting House in central London and dumped on some unloving relative from a Grimms’ fairy tale at Television Centre. Don’t worry if you missed it. The article was in the sour, overwrought spirit of that opening sentence so, if anything, you dodged a bullet.
The point is, BH will soon be our home once more, after an extensive renovation. The famous frontage that resembles a ship is still there, and becomes known as Old Broadcasting House, but round the back and to the side, an ultra-modern attachment has risen. Last week I was booked on a sinister-sounding “Induction Course” to indoctrinate me in the ways of New Broadcasting House.
Naturally I made a tit of myself by showing up at the wrong reception area. The kindly people at Old BH pointed me towards New BH and moments later I was inside the wildly futuristic reception area, where I fully expected to be able to check in my luggage before departing on my intergalactic space flight.
Instead a smartly dressed woman who pretended not to realise who I was, took my name and promised that my “Induction” would begin presently. As she said those words I began to feel powerfully sleepy and the next thing I knew I was prostrate in Portmeirion with my trousers on back to front.
No wait, that’s my Jubilee bank holiday story, which I don’t have room for. The induction consisted of a short video in which senior BBC executives, many of them in the running to be DG, held back tears while describing how momentous the new BH would be.
Then we had a talk explaining the shape of the building (imagine a giant lower wisdom tooth), where the fire exits were and most importantly, where you could get a coffee. Then we were given a new red lanyard for our BBC passes, to replace the current blue ones. This would demonstrate to security staff that we had been inducted and should not be shot on sight.
A tour followed. I may not be your best guide since I’m the type of person who wants to buy every single house he sees on first viewing, no matter how crappy it is. But here goes…
The giant newsroom that will form the backdrop to your TV news bulletins soon, was devoid of journalists but heaved with computer technology and promise. The studio PM will use is beautiful. I can control the TV monitors from my chair without having to find the doofer. Natural light cascades into most areas of the building and there are tiny studio pods scattered across the building that Sally, my excellent guide, has already dubbed “Orgasmatrons”.
There’s nothing BBC people like more than a meeting and many of the meeting rooms in New BH have been named after broadcasters we have known and loved. The photograph (left) is one I took of the Nick Clarke room. Nick hated leaving BH all those years ago, and how sweet it would have been to have him move back with us in person. But it wasn’t to be, and so he lives on in this modest room with his name on the door and his face plastered all over it. Future generations of producers will say: “I’ll meet you inside Nick Clarke in five minutes”.
Eddie Mair hosts PM on Monday-Friday at 5:00pm and co-presents iPM on Saturday at 5:45am, both on Radio 4.