Introducting Studio One 

1 December 2002

The BBC, as the world’s first broadcaster, had to start it’s studios from scratch. Using at first the facilities of the Marconi Company – one of the BBC’s ‘parents’ – the BBC began to develop studio facilities by adapting buildings around the country.

After WW2, the opportunities for the BBC to build brand new complexes grew. Many bombed cities sprouted new, purpose-built buildings, virtually all called ‘Broadcasting House’ after the BBC’s first purpose-built studios in Great Portland Street.

But the BBC decided to revert to converting other buildings for the arrival of television. The baby, ‘experimental’, not-yet-tested service was run from Alexandra Palace. Television Centre in White City would be planned in the 1950s, but not finally realised until the 1960s. By this time television was clearly the dominant medium, not least because of the birth of ITV in 1955.

Independent Television was born in a building that once housed the Royal Air Force’s civil servants. The original companies – Associated-Rediffusion, Associated TeleVision and ITN – all huddled together for protection, if nothing else, in those early, loss-making days.

But the first two contractors soon had to expand out into former cinemas and theatres. Some companies that followed, like ABC, used converted cinemas in their two regions for all their operations (mainly thanks to having a former film studio for the bulk of productions). Granada by contrast followed the BBC’s example and bought a bomb-site in Salford – surrounded by warehouses, open sewers and soon-to-be demolished slum housing – to build their studios upon. The same would happen some 13 years later when Yorkshire Television opened in brand-new studios built on a still-undeveloped bomb-site in Kirkstall. (These bomb-sites are still in evidence throughout the UK – just look for unexpected children’s parks near railways or docks, or over-wide streets in crowded areas, or even 1960s buildings surrounded by Victorian stock).

Each new studio – no matter where it originated – has a story to tell. A form of living history exists even from studios that inhabited carpet warehouses and grain exchanges. The pioneering attitude of the those who established these studios in strange circumstances is also to be seen in the scientific developments they made in to counter each problem they encountered – every one being the first to be seen. From video recordings to sloped floors built over ex-stalls, the early pioneers of television had to innovate.

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Liverpool, Saturday 15 June 2024