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1960: BBC unveils TV 'factory'

The BBC's new Television Centre will be the "Hollywood" of the small screen, the corporation's director of TV has announced.

Gerald Beadle said the 12m complex, which opens today, would be "immensely important" to British prestige and trade.

The first studio production from the building was broadcast at 1935 GMT and featured some of Britain's most well-known entertainers, including Arthur Askey and Eric Robinson.

The west London complex has seven television studios. The largest - Studio 1 - is 11,000 square feet (3,280 square metres) and can be partially converted into a swimming pool.

The Shepherd's Bush centre, which has taken six years to build, will also house offices, engineering areas, a scenery department and a restaurant block.

It has been constructed on the site used for the 1908 Franco-British exhibition and is just minutes away from the White City sports stadium which hosted the Olympics in the same year.

Mr Beadle said: "This centre is the largest, best equipped and most carefully planned factory of its kind in the world.

"Its function is to produce about 1,500 hours a year of programme material for television."

Question mark

The director added that he hoped the new building would help the BBC counteract the flood of cheap American programmes across the UK.

For the past 25 years the BBC has improvised by adapting other buildings into television studios - like the two at Alexandra Palace.

Television Centre is designed in the shape of a question mark with a circular courtyard and trailing wing.

The distinctive profile was created by architect Graham Dawbarn.

Puzzling how to fit studios, dressing rooms, offices and a set-down area for trucks into the 13-acre site, Mr Dawbarn drew a question mark on the back of an envelope.

He later realised this would be the ideal shape for the building.

In the central courtyard there is a lawn and fountain, but the space is dominated by a golden statue of Greek sun god Helios, designed by TB Huxley-Jones.

The sculpture represents the radiation of television light around the world.

In Context
Television Centre is the BBC's largest building and home to most of its TV production.

Over the past few decades numerous extensions have been made - including a new centre for BBC News which was badly damaged by the Real IRA in a car bomb attack in 2001.

BBC News is moving to a new broadcast complex being built at Broadcasting House, central London, in 2008.

The fountain in the central courtyard was never used regularly after people complained it made too much noise, disturbing those working in nearby offices.

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