Eddie Mair: the day I lost my New Broadcasting House cherry

"I have consummated broadcasting with the throbbing hub of the BBC. I penetrated the basement and gave it my all in front of anyone who wanted to watch"


You can’t tell to look at me, but I am no longer a New Broadcasting House virgin. That is to say, I have lost my NBH cherry. I have consummated broadcasting with the throbbing hub of the BBC. I penetrated the basement and gave it my all in front of anyone who wanted to watch.


I don’t know about you, but that first paragraph has left me feeling a little woozy. I apologise if you had to make an impromptu call into the great white telephone. It’s the excitement, you see. What I was trying to convey is that I’ve done my first broadcast from New Broadcasting House – the shimmering new home of much of the BBC, which has been expertly welded on to the back and side of the familiar edifice we must now call Old Broadcasting House.

I was planning to give you a blow-by-blow account of the momentous occasion when PM and the other Radio 4 news sequence programmes move into the new building. Come moving day you’ll find me, Robin Lustig and Martha Kearney making big boxes out of flat packs, popping bubble wrap like crazy and doing goofy things with old newspaper cuttings. Imagine us doing that accompanied by Billy Joel’s Movin Out and you’ve got a great musical montage to play in your head.

Martha is in charge of moving the beehives. Robin is in charge of getting all the big maps off the walls. And I’ve been told to go off in search of some tartan paint. But I digress.

My premature arrival at New BH can be blamed, like so much these days, on Newsnight. They called me to say that in the week of the US presidential election, they would be hosting the programme live from Washington DC. “Say no more,” I intoned, fumbling for my passport. “I can be on the next plane. My usual suite at the Ritz-Carlton and if necessary I don’t have to fly first class. But I’m not sitting next to Kirsty en route. No siree. Not after last time.”

There was a delicate cough then the caller revealed that I wasn’t required in Washington. Jeremy Paxman and the team would be presenting from there. But would I be able to sit in the studio in London just in case there was some big British news, or the satellite link disappeared?

At TV centre, the Newsnight studio was on the ground floor, but at New BH it’s well below street level. I think they call it the sub-sub-sub basement. I got out of the lift and found myself on the Hammersmith and City line. Working at this depth will be terrific in the event of thermonuclear war: the Newsnight team will be able to repopulate the Earth. Those new humans won’t be the prettiest or the brightest, but my goodness they’ll be able to set up a discussion on the future of the Church of England at the drop of a pointy hat.


In the end I did get on the air for a brief discussion about something important. And at the risk of filling you with nausea again, it felt really good to be back at the home of broadcasting. Well, three floors below it, but I’m not complaining.