End of era as BBC bids good-bye to majestic home

Thu Jul 12, 2012 6:04am EDT
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By Maria Golovnina

LONDON (Reuters) - At noon London time on July 12, 2012, Britain will slip silently into a new era of radio history.

At the top of the hour, the BBC World Service - once the voice of the British empire - will transmit its last radio news bulletin from its imposing home, Bush House in central London.

For more than 70 years the art-deco building was the beating heart of the British Broadcasting Corporation's overseas service and a bastion of press freedom around the world.

From here King George V addressed the Empire in 1932, Charles de Gaulle defied the Nazis, and legions of emigres sent news in dozens of languages to the unmistakable introductory strains of Lilliburlero, its signature tune.

Setting off a wave of nostalgia, the BBC has decided to move the operation to a gleaming new office in London as part of its efforts to bring all of its broadcasting teams under one roof.

With a warren of meandering corridors, soaring halls and marble stairs, the majestic Bush House has already been mostly abandoned, with the last team of journalists due to leave officially on Thursday after the final bulletin.

"It's spooky. It does feel bereft," said Andrew Whitehead, a former South Asia correspondent who has worked for the BBC since 1981, his footsteps echoing in the building's hollow silence.

"Part of me feels sad. Bush House has meant something. You would say: 'I work at Bush House'. You don't say: 'I work at the BBC World Service'."   Continued...