The REMS visit to BBC Bush House

14 May 2012

Rodica Mager and George Freeman managed to organise a REMS visit to Bush House on Monday, 14 May 2012.

Bush House was built by a wealthy American business man Irving T.Bush as a trade centre for American and UK manufacturers.  Plan was to have under one roof luxury accommodation, exhibition galleries, conference rooms, reference libraries, a club and a restaurant in the lavish style of the 1920s.  

 The 1921 recession changed all this and although the original plans for the Central Block were not altered, the other four wings were adapted for more conventional office use.

On 19th December 1932, from Broadcasting House, the BBC introduced its listeners to the Empire Service (precursor of today’s World Service); the aim was to unite the English speaking peoples of the Empire. However, after a landmine damaged Broadcasting House in 1940, the Overseas Service moved into the SE wing of Bush House (the venue was requisitioned by the then Ministry of Works on behalf of the BBC).  There were a number of historic broadcasts from Bush House during the war, one of which was when General De Gaulle addressed the French soldiers at the time of the French surrender in 1940.

After lunch in the Club Bar we were guided by Carrie Dunton and Angela  Carte through the Central Block and South East wing and told about the specific features and the history of Bush House.  On the second part of the tour an IT technician (Mark Goodridge) showed us the main Control Room, the News Room, old and more recent control desks on display or in  studios, told us how programmes are put together and we wrapped up seeing a Hausa team at work during their 30 minutes  live transmission.   

Two other members of staff,  Ruxandra Obreja, (Head of Digital Radio Development, World Service Chairman,  DRM Consortium)  and  Rob Hugh-Jones, (Managing Editor  BBC-US  co-productions) told us about the new digital broadcast standards and how the future of  broadcast journalism might evolve.   Their presentations were relevant because BBC’s Bush House lease terminates this year and the World Service is moving to the New Broadcasting House, in Portland Place, next to the original building.  This coincides with the transfer from analogue to digital recording and broadcasting.

The final but most impressive part of our visit was when three of our members (Tony Gee, John Stevenson and Graham Thompson) sat round the table for a discussion with  producer Kazimierz Janowski who has an interest in science.  The rest of us, acting as audience, followed the discussion with interest and at times added an opinion or two.   This exercise took place in studio S6, (in the basement, the only audience area in Bush House) used for dramas, which had (as explained by the David Milton, senior studio manager and Jeremy Lowe, operations manager) quiet areas and an area used for sound effects with the hardware still in place.