Less than three months to go before PM moves postcode again. Fourteen years ago we were forced from W1A to W12 and in early December we’re scheduled to move back. But already people are beginning to disappear.
Last Friday, the first straggle of refugees from our aircraft-hangar-style accommodation were preparing to go. Danny Shaw and his colleagues from the Home Affairs Unit were seen amid a pile of removal boxes down at the far end of our office. Luke Walton and his education chums were similarly wrapping up the bone china in newspapers and the Daily Express. Behind the skirting boards, the Television Centre mice were loading old matchboxes with bits of cheese and other rodent-related items ready to infest the most advanced digital newsroom in the world.
6 December is the date for PM’s move to New Broadcasting House. Teams of BBC people have been preparing us for many months. Carefully crafted emails have been sent to our inboxes covering every eventuality. Any conceivable question has been asked and answered so that, on the big day, the programme-makers can glide serenely from one part of town to another, with only one thing in mind: informing, educating and entertaining our audience. The support has been tremendous. But let me tell you how journalists – including me – will behave.
“Where am I supposed to sit? ““Where are the bins?” “How do I lower the desk?” “Where is the studio?” “What’s the correct way to sit on this chair?” “Can I go to the toilet, please?”
Journalists are obsessed with deadlines. Each day on PM, while we have half an eye on the following day, and half a spleen thinking about the following week, it’s the next looming 5pm that pushes everything else to the background. I’ve been squirrelling away all these helpful emails about the big move for more than a year.
When one arrives in my inbox, with the subject line: “Where you’re supposed to sit” or “Yes, you can go to the toilet”, I make a mental note to read it later before returning to the burning question of what to say when the long pip finishes.
Only after 5 December’s show will I turn my attention to the important task in hand and you can bet your bottom euro that on that night I and others will be storming around the empty shell of Television Centre demanding to know why on earth no one told us about everything, and seriously, I am not kidding, will someone please tell me where the hell I’m supposed to sit.
The trick will be to ensure that listeners notice nothing. I’m confident that during the day I will have got lost, pressed the wrong button in the studio so that instead of silencing a cough I will have broadcast it, misread the time on the new clocks and in all likelihood have wet myself having finaly found then misunderstood the toilet memo. But that’s all that counts. Make a note in your diary: it could be a classic.
Eddie Mair co-presents iPM on Saturday at 5:45am and hosts PM from Monday to Friday at 5:00pm, both on Radio 4