Mapping out BBC Television Centre

Head of Partnership Development

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Earlier this week, Google Street View dropped in on BBC Television Centre to take a few pictures. In the meantime, we asked Head of Partnership Development in the BBC's archive development team Bill Thompson to mark the moment with a special blog post.

Studio 1 at BBC Television Centre, known as TC1, is quiet today, as it has been for a while now. Jools Holland closed his piano lid for the last time before Christmas and won’t be back for a while, so too the stars of Strictly who are no longer sweating away under the glare of the studio lights. The last comedy to be recorded here, Miranda, has already been broadcast. It will be three years until TV production returns to what will be state of the art studios privately-run by BBC Studios and Post Production.

Sport, Children’s and Five Live headed North a while ago, News and TV commissioning have gone east (to Broadcasting House, so not that far East, really) and soon the archive development team of which I’m a member will move to the Media Centre, further up Wood Lane and famous as the headquarters of the (fictional) Dosac in The Thick of It.

Lots of people have been taking photographs before we leave, to provide a final record of a building we’ve grown to love, but we’ve also decided to make a larger-scale memorial to the home of British television, so this week Google have brought their Street View cameras in to record large areas of the building as it is now, before it is redeveloped and refurbished.

Once the photographs have been taken they will be stitched together and sometime over the summer anyone looking at Wood Lane on Google Maps will have the opportunity to step inside the building and look around.

Fortunately for those still working in the building (there are a few), Google didn’t drive a small car around the famous corridors, in a misplaced homage to Top Gear.

A lone Google Mapper records the deserted BBC Newsroom at TVC

As you can see from the picture, they have a special trolley on which the camera pod can be mounted, and this is carefully wheeled through much of the building, capturing the Foyer, the Stage Door with its renowned mural, the old scenery painting area, the studios and miles and miles of strangely similar corridor. Plus the newsroom, one or two offices and, we hope, the famous BBC canteen and its astonishing kitchens.

Studio S1, home of Today and PM for many years, is now an empty shell, and the sixth floor no longer reverberates to the sound of executive decision making, but it remains fascinating to walk through, either in real life or on a screen.

I think that anyone who wanders around the virtual corridors will get a sense of what life has been like for those of us who have worked there over the decades, and get a buzz from being allowed to look backstage in a building that has been so important to anyone who ever watched television.

The BBC’s archive is vast, but most people think of it in terms of a massive library of TV and radio programmes. In fact it’s much more than that – there are miles of paper documents, millions of photographs, vinyl LPs, sheet music and objects like the old BBC One globe and early cameras. Thanks to Google we’re now creating a "virtual tour" of the building that everyone can enjoy, and we’re also adding to the BBC’s store of memories.


Bill Thompson is Head of Partnership Development, Archive Development. He has written for the BBC Internet Blog, Radio Blog and regularly appears on Click on the World Service.  Follow him on Twitter @BBCBillT

Google have also mapped the new Radio 1 studios at New Broadcasting House. You can see inside on Google Maps

Earlier this week, the BBC announced that a 2 hour special 'Goodbye to Television Centre' will air on BBC Four in March. 

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