At the heart of the capital lies the BBC’s New Broadcasting House which currently unites over 6,000 staff members from across the network in a state of the art multimedia centre.
Until a year ago, the BBC had several different newsrooms scattered around London. Now, the BBC’s local and world news teams work under the same roof, alongside three 24-hour news channels, nine radio networks and 27 foreign language services.
The original 1932 Broadcast House underwent extensive redevelopment and the new John Peel Wing provides the latest, digital broadcast facilities for television, radio, news and online. The newsroom itself has 460 workstations– many of them staffed 24/7, making it the largest live newsroom in Europe.
The project, which cost over £1 billion, was independently financed by a public-private partnership involving a bond. However, the building will reportedly save the BBC £736m over the next 20 years.
In March 2012, the BBC’s Burmese Service led the way and became the first programme to broadcast live from the new building.
BBC Senior World Affairs Producer Stuart Hughes said the building amalgamates the “huge amount of expertise and knowledge about various parts of the world within our own organisation.”
“Now we’re all together, all that expertise is much more visible. You’ll often see correspondents from the Arabic, Urdu, Persian or Swahili services talking about their patches on language output, which didn’t happen so often when we were all in separate buildings.”
“Things are much more ‘joined up.’ The ‘silo mentality’ – where each part of our output operates independently of the others – is starting to break down and the atmosphere is much more collaborative,” he said.
According to Hughes, there is a huge advantage, from a producer’s point of view, in having all the major outlets in one newsroom.
“If I have an idea for a story all I have to do is take a walk around ‘the pit’ and everyone is in one place – from radio news, to online, to the ten o’clock news. On a busy news day there’s a real buzz about the place”.
There are soft seating areas for informal meetings and quiet, one-on-one spaces around the perimeter of the two large 43m high glass atria.
“It is a bright, lively and creative space which represents the BBC’s commitment to the future and symbolises the BBC brand’s overriding intentions of integration and transparency”, said Director of Global News, Peter Horrocks.
“An open plan working environment is the most productive way for us to maintain communications between all members of staff. It is the right way to work.”
There are some disadvantages, though. BBC News is such a huge operation that the demands from its many strands of programming can seem “overwhelming”.
“If I’m working on an important story it can feel like there are too many “mouths to feed” and the requests never stop coming, day or night,” said Hughes.
“The news industry is changing so rapidly that we’ll have to continue to evolve in order to keep up with the competition. What works today may not work 12 months from now so even though we’re a massive operation we’ll need to stay nimble enough to keep adapting what we do, which can be a challenge,” he added.
It’s still early days. The building has only been at full capacity for a year now. However, “the changes to the way we work are already evident,” said Hughes.
Students, journalists or members of the public can also access unique spaces of the building such as the ‘World’ piazza and the café which overlooks the busy newsroom.
Busy – no other word defines the BBC so aptly. At any one time, over ten million people across the UK will watch or listen to output from the new Broadcasting House, and every week at least 256 million people worldwide will tune daily into the BBC World Service networks.
The BBC predicts this figure will rise to 500 million by 2020 meaning the broadcast machine needs to be well oiled to cope with such demand, and Broadcast House looks set to do so.
Jessamy Baudains is studying for her MA in International Journalism at Brunel University. She tweets @JessamyBaudains and writes at jessamybaudains.wordpress.com.
Photo: Ben Sutherland