BBC Commences TV Centre Sell Off

A big talking point right now is the planned sale of BBC Television Centre in White City. Long discussed, this week saw the BBC announce the first phase of the sale. Working with property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), the BBC is seeking expressions of interest for either a conventional, freehold property sale or alternative proposals possibly based around a joint venture partnership. It says the key objective for any sale or partnership is to maximise the value of the site to the BBC and Licence Fee payers.

The BBC originally announced its intention to sell the 14-acre Television Centre site in 2007. LSH was appointed in November 2010 following a competitive tender. Although a conventional sale is possible, the Corporation says it is “keen to investigate opportunities for redeveloping Television Centre that preserve the key listed elements of the iconic building, but also afford the opportunity to establish a hub for creative businesses and a visitor destination.” Commenting on the sale, Chris Kane, Head of BBC Workplace, said: “Our key objective is to maximise value to the BBC. With high investor demand for commercial property in London and a shortage of landmark sites as distinctive as Television Centre, we anticipate strong competition for conventional and innovative proposals.”

The BBC plans to fully vacate the site in 2015. As a first step, interested parties are invited to register their interest by 1 July 2011. It is the intention of the BBC to arrive at a short list of potential purchasers or joint venture partners; thereafter, selected parties will be formally invited to tender. Whatever happens to the building, the existing Studios and Post Production business will continue to operate following the sale of Television Centre, either remaining on site or in a new location: “Television Centre has played an extraordinary and central role in the history of the BBC, which will not be forgotten,” said Richard Deverell, W12 Programme Director: “(We will) ensure that the teams and operations based there are successfully relocated.”

Television Centre opened on 29 June 1960, as the BBC’;s first purpose-built centre for television production. It is currently the home of BBC Vision and BBC News – the News Centre opened in 1998 at the front of the building

The site extends over 14 acres, with five core buildings, a number of which have been extended since the original building was constructed. The main building comprises the distinctive circular office block (also known as the “doughnut”) enclosing a 150ft central courtyard. Grouped around it are the original seven studios, linked by a covered walkway and ring road for delivery and storage of scenery. Adjoining the cylindrical block is a spur, which was developed in three phases between the 1960s and 1990s to form interconnecting blocks of office and studio space.

In July 2009, parts of TVC were given Grade II listed status, including the main circular ring, excluding the spur, the original scenery block and the former canteen. Other sections of the complex are not of special interest: the outer ring of studios, the scenery block of 1953-54; the canteen of 1954-55; the completed spur or 1964, 1978, 1983-8 and 1995-8, and the east tower to the south east of the site.

The centre has 12 studios, ranging in size from 110 square metres to the vast Studio TC1 at 995 square metres – the third largest TV studio in Britain. Notable shows recorded here include Fawlty Towers, Monty Python’;s Flying Circus, Blue Peter, Absolutely Fabulous, classic Doctor Who and Strictly Come Dancing. The last major drama series to be shot there was The House Of Elliott in 1994 – after that, drama production moved onto film or single-camera video and TVC was not entirely suitable for such production.

At the end of 2010, just over 5000 staff occupied TVC. Once moves to MediaCityUK and Broadcasting House have completed, there will be just under 1200 staff that will need to be relocated. Of those remaining, the major occupiers will be BBC Vision. Other divisions affected will be Operations, Audio & Music, Finance and Business, Future Media, and Studios and Post Production. The majority of people and functions will have moved out by summer 2013. It is expected that the site will be fully vacated in 2015.

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