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26.09.03


EAST TV
RADIO NORFOLK


BBC's new home rises in the east


Broadcasting in the east of England will enter an exciting new phase when BBC East completes its move to The Forum in Norwich over the weekend.


The BBC will complete the transfer of its regional headquarters when Look East, the award-winning regional news television programme, begins broadcasting from The Forum on Monday 29 September.


The move to the landmark building in the city centre marks both the end of an era and the start of a new digital age, so Look East is relaunching with a brand new look and feel.


Radio Norfolk, Inside Out, The Politics Show, News Online and the website team have already relocated to the Forum in a staggered move, started in June.


It will be first time that the station's services have been together under one roof.


Until this summer, the BBC operated from a split site in Norwich divided between television's base at St Catherine's Close and the radio studios in Surrey Street.


It will be an emotional moment for staff. Television programmes have been broadcast from the listed Georgian building at St Catherine's Close for more than 40 years.


Presenters Stewart White and Susie Fowler-Watt will sit behind their desk at the Look East studios for the final time on Friday 26 September.


Tim Bishop, Head of BBC East, says: "We wanted to be at the heart of the community where our audiences, who pay for the unique services the BBC provides, can see what we do close-up."


Passers-by can see the BBC at work through the floor-to-ceiling windows, which overlook the atrium. Tim adds: "It will be easier for people to drop in and see us, and as The Forum increasingly becomes a venue for public events, we can be even more involved in the local community."


This more people-friendly approach will also be reflected in Look East's new set.


Presenters will be in less formal surroundings, standing for the daytime and late-night bulletins, while presenters of the 6.30pm programme will sit at a coffee table.


Dave Betts, Look East's Editor, says: "We're retiring the newsdesk, which was a barrier between the presenters and the viewers. It's all part of making us more accessible.


"It's great not to be tucked away in the corner, people can just walk in off the street to tell us news. We're also going to try to do more people stories - individuals rather than institutions."


The Forum has been equipped with cutting edge digital technology that has been custom-built for the BBC. Eventually, this system will be rolled out to BBC centres in Birmingham, Hull, Leeds and Manchester, but BBC East has it first!


New desktop editing systems and a state-of-the-art transmission facilities will mean quicker news production and better coverage of the region.


The technology will make life easier because more effort can be put into news gathering and less into processing material back at the studios.


"It's more flexible for editing and the modern technology means news bulletins can contain more local news from around the region," says Dave Betts. "There will be more shorter pieces, allowing us to get better regional coverage".


Moving a major TV broadcasting outfit is very complicated and despite his excitement, Dave Betts admits he's nervous about Monday's first programme from The Forum: "We're transforming our operation in one go - it's like a big bang. We've made changes before on Look East, but they've been gradual. This time, there's not one person whose job won't change."


Although he's sad to leave St Catherine's Close, Tim Bishop believes the station's new home is the way forward for a modern BBC: "I love the Georgian staircase and entrance to St Catherine's, and the feel and history of the place. But working right in the centre of Norwich in such a wonderful, 21st century broadcasting centre just can't be beaten.


"It took around 30 years to roll out local radio, and it's taken around 30 months to roll out our Where I Live websites across the country.


"We know that what people want from our services will continue to change, but these facilities allow us to deliver more local broadcasting than ever before.


"We intend to build on that in the years to come. This is a start, not an end."


More details, including facts and figures about the old and new buildings, are available from www.bbc.co.uk/norfolk/senseofplace.


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