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A new home

Mark Coyle | 14:44 UK time, Thursday, 20 September 2007

They gathered together, the great and the good from a cross-section of Scottish society.

The occasion - the official opening of BBC Scotland's gleaming new headquarters, built at a cost of £188m, on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow.

BBC Scotland's new HQ

Staff lined the passageways on all five floors to listen to the speakers, Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust; director general Mark Thompson and the guest of honour, Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Pacific Quay represents a model of what the BBC wants to become... a "test-bed" was how Mark Thompson described it.

New digital production systems turning out more, engaging programmes for radio and television and multimedia content online. New working practices, with teams of journalists and other production staff collaborating more closely, stirring the creative spirit, sparking new ideas.

Openness is a theme of this building (you can see pictures of it here). Even the controller, Ken McQuarrie, sits in the open. In fact, one of the few places where staff can close and lock a door behind them is the unisex toilets (which remain a topic of fairly heated discussion).

Scotland can be an uncomfortable place for London-based BBC executives. The director-general referred to the first time eight years ago when he set foot on the then undeveloped wasteland that was Pacific Quay.

Then, he said, there was a "very lively" debate about broadcasting in Scotland. Today is no different and the themes remain broadly similar, with critics labelling the BBC the "EBC", or "English Broadcasting Corporation".

Devolution - and more significantly, the outcome of May's Scottish Parliament elections - has moved the goalposts. The SNP-led Scottish Government (itself a contentious title) has launched a commission to look into the state of Scottish broadcasting.

At the heart of the debate is the 3% the BBC currently spends in Scotland on producing television programmes which are seen across the entire UK network. First Minister Alex Salmond wants that figure to rise to 9%, which represents the proportion of the UK population in Scotland.

Today, Mark Thompson played the ball back into the politician's court. He told the audience that network deliveries from BBC Scotland "can and must grow to at least its proportion of the UK population".

He referred to this as a "floor, rather than a ceiling", echoing Mr Salmond's own words delivered last month when he announced the commission.

And so the debate goes on.

Whilst today was about looking forward, history was given its due place in the proceedings.

Mark Thompson remarked that the gathering was standing on Prince's Dock, the former name of Pacific Quay. George Reith, grandfather of the BBC's imposing founder John Reith, had been instrumental in the excavation of the dock.

John Reith's daughter Marista was in the audience. In a book about her father, she talked about his "tall ghost" still stalking the corridors of Broadcasting House in London.

Reith's original office table from Savoy Hill has been restored and placed in the controller's area on the third floor of Pacific Quay, prompting the caution that Kenny McQuarrie shouldn't be surprised if he felt a "stooped and vigilant figure looking over his shoulder".

There were nostalgic words too from Gordon Brown. It was only a few yards away, beside the shipyards of Govan, where his father began his Church of Scotland ministry in 1937.

To be present 70 years later at the opening of Pacific Quay was to send out a message of faith in the regeneration of Glasgow, once the "workshop of the world".

So, warm words and high hopes. After the dignitaries have left and Pacific Quay finds its natural rhythm, BBC Scotland's new home will be judged by the output it produces.

It feels a wee bit like we're in a goldfish bowl with the rest of the BBC and licence-fee payers looking in. Now it's down to us to get the best out of our investment.


  • 1.
  • At 03:38 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • John K wrote:

I would be very unhappy if for political reasons the proportion of BBC output being generated in Scotland was pushed up to a certain percentage to represent the share of Scots in the UK population, regardless of quality or relevance.

No other part of the UK is being offered this slightly Faustian pact. I know the Scots will argue that Scotland is different but Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions can also make the case that they are special.

The answer is to make sure good programmes are planned and made in Scotland which can be selected for broadcast on merit. Floors and ceilings can quickly become very slippery slopes if the ground is tilted!

  • 2.
  • At 04:08 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • SimonK wrote:

Two predictions about the new building:

1. Within the next year, it will win at least one architectural award.

2. Within the next year, staff who work there will begin complaining about things going wrong - heating not working, impractical layout of offices, coffe machines breaking down, etc.

These two predictions are not unrelated. Like many new buildings, it looks great, at the expense of practicality.

  • 3.
  • At 04:20 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I'm sure Jeremy Paxman is ecstatic at this news, and only to pleased to think that the proposed 20% cut to Newsnight's budget is a price worth paying for this.

Economics of the madhouse. I am Welsh and am pleased that the BBC spends money on regional programming.

But here is a bit of newsflash, folks. Newsnight covers news in Zimbabwe. It covers news in the USA. It covers news in Europe. It covers what is going on in the Middle East. It covers, in more detail than I've seen anywhere else on the Beeb, what is going on in Africa.

The facile proposition above that we Welsh and Scottish don't give a stuff about what is going on in the rest of the world, and with climate change and globalisation, er, the whole world, is too superficial and banal to warrant a reply.

Wake up and smell the coffee - you've screwed up Horizon, You've screwed up Panorama, you've taken off Tomorrow's World, and you are now about to shaft Newsnight. And you are expecting us to be pleased that you've built yet another bl**dy office to go with the ones you've got planned for Salford ?

Hoo-bl**dy- ray..

  • 4.
  • At 05:35 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • louise wrote:

Now that we have a new BBC building in glasgow will we actually see news representing this country. The BBC is obviously biased against our elected government in scotland. If they are not then why wasnt alex salmond asked to open the building. There is obviously no openess in the BBC given that they invited Gordon Brown to open it. This is the man who last week stood with the woman who killed shipbuilding on the clyde. We wont forget that in a hurry. Bring on the election gordon.

  • 5.
  • At 07:58 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • Hugo wrote:

". . . with critics labelling the BBC the "EBC", or "English Broadcasting Corporation".

Sir, these are not youre critics, these are your friends!

  • 6.
  • At 10:45 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Let's hope the quality of the programmes improve from tonights 10:25pm Reporting Scotland, which appeared to be read from a cupboard whilst a nosiy and rowdy party went on outside (hope you all enjoyed yourselves). Poor Sally looked like she couldn't wait to get back out there...

Enough moaning though, all the best in your new home!

  • 7.
  • At 10:48 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • Derek wrote:

All very impressive.

It is just a shame that Reporting Scotland has not had a proper titles revamp since 1999!!!

It is also a shame that I could not hear tonight's late bulletin as all I could here was chatter in the background.

State of the art sound facilities indeed???

  • 8.
  • At 10:54 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Print wrote:

Just watched the 1030 News Bulletin from Pacific Quay. Pictures nice but couldn't hear a word the presenter ws saying due to the party in progress ! "Openness" may be the buzz word but a sound proof studio would be an original concept. Makes the future of broadcasting a worrying prospect.

  • 9.
  • At 01:42 AM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • karin wrote:

The BBC has yet another labour biased story on its website. Does the BBC not have any stock pictures of SNP or any other political party except London labour. I want to see pictures and articles on the scottish government. Does anyone at the BBC even know what any of the scottish government ministers look like. It seems unlikely because we never actually see pictures of them. LIsten BBC you may have a labour government at westminster but we have the SNP in scotland and I get more and more angry the less i see that reflected on the BBC website. I am quite sure if you ask the scottish government for a few pictures they will be happy to oblige. Anyone reading the articles on the politics page will either think that the snp is manned solely by alex salmond or is in fact an offshoot of the labour party. Stop it BBC and Stop it NOW.

  • 10.
  • At 08:56 AM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • David G wrote:

Another brand new building. Your TV Tax at work.,...

  • 11.
  • At 09:34 AM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

As the BBC obviously still has money to burn can we now assume that you will stop pushing for continued rises in the licence fee?

The BBC has not been worth the licence fee in years, yet the licence fee continues to go up. The only BBC service I used regularly is this web site which I could use for free if I didn't pay for the licence.

The only time I watched the BBC this week was to see Heroes - a show that was first shown on abother channel.

  • 12.
  • At 09:39 AM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • D paterson wrote:

Glasgow sells a modern dynamic image to the world and ups Scotlands image .Im glad the media are not in Edinburgh it would be more of the same Tartan kilts haggis neeps & more tartan,Oh and im from Edinburgh ,Well done Glasgow.

  • 13.
  • At 09:48 AM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • seamus mcneill wrote:

Please, please, please no more development of regional broadcasting. In Northern Ireland we suffer annoyingly frequent regional opt outs for local dross which is repeated ad nauseam. The local talent is simply not there to sustain the output which the Regional Contaoller inflicts on us.
The BBC should be a national broadcaster and should leave the independents to see if the market will bear yet another repeat of some local nonentity riding his favourite hobby horse.

  • 14.
  • At 10:54 AM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • Stuart Taylor wrote:

Congratulations on your new building. But what on earth was going on with last night's Reporting Scotland (10.25pm)?
Couldn't make out a word the newsreader was saying as it sounded like the programme was being broadcast from a Weatherspoons pub!
Absolutely shocking.
Is this the way it's supposed to be? Are the studios not sound-proofed?

No apology - but that seems to be par for the course.

Radio Scotland listeners in the Highlands never get an apology when, as has happened numerous times this year, the 7.50am or 4.54pm news for the Highlands and Islands fails to appear - or appears midway through its scheduled broadcast.

  • 15.
  • At 11:19 AM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • James W McCurry wrote:

Couldn't agree more with #13 which is why Scotland needs to rid itself of the BBC and establish a national broadcaster. Roll on the SBC!

So when will there be a BBC England?

It is gleeming, and it is new, but it is also an unimaginative Stalinist block. My God, you're supposed to be a CULTURAL organization, BBC...!! There are creative architects all over the place, not least of all in the UK. And this is the best that the BBC could do? This is a missed opportunity and a darned shame.

  • 18.
  • At 03:14 PM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • Gareth wrote:

On budget and on time one would hope.

Environmentally friendly too? Not that the BBC have a line on climate change you understand. All that glass must make for a hot building in summer. Those are photovoltaic windows, right? And the expanse of roof is home to some sizeable wind turbines as well?

I'll not hold my breath.

  • 19.
  • At 04:34 PM on 21 Sep 2007,
  • Jamie wrote:

Another house for the Labour Propaganda Media Unit - should we be grateful?

  • 20.
  • At 05:42 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • 4fs wrote:

Canada: "It is gleeming, and it is new, but it is also an unimaginative Stalinist block."

I agree. Pretty dreadful, really. But still not so bad as that eyesore in Edinburgh. But if Alex Salmond wants it to generate output proportional to the Scottish population, why didn't you just buy a big shed?

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