Friday 26 June, 1998 marked the end of an era for radio broadcasting in Britain. The Radio 4 midnight news bulletin on that day, read by Chief Announcer Peter Donaldson, was the last to be broadcast through the microphones of London's Broadcasting House, home of BBC domestic radio news since 1932. On 27 June, BBC Radio News Division acquired fresh pastures at White City in the shape of a purpose-built structure designed to accommodate both BBC Radio and TV News. Accordingly, some 600 radio news broadcasters and journalists have vacated their former home and moved to new Headquarters across London.
To the listener, the news will continue to sound exactly as has always sounded, delivered by the same familiar voices, and "Today", "The World at One" and "The World Tonight" will still be accommodated in their appointed slots, as before. However, if that listener happens to be a keen radio enthusiast, I somehow think that he or she might just share my feeling of sadness on realising that that never again shall I hear momentous items of news being brought to me through the studios of Broadcasting House.
The list of such news broadcasts is endless, especially if it embraces World War 2 and a few notable ones which readily spring to mind include : Stuart Hibberd's "The King's life is moving peacefully towards its close" in the hours preceding the death of King George V, Alvar Lidell's reading of the Abdication Statement and Jimmy Kingsbury's startling announcement on 'Radio Newsreel' that President Kennedy had been shot. It was in this building too, that Bruce Belfrage carried on reading the 9 o'clock news, even though a German bomb had just fallen on Broadcasting House, it was here that Frank Phillips announed the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and it was here that "Today" was born in 1957, making household names out of its long list of presenters - people such as Jack de Manio, John Timpson and Brian Redhead.
Few will notice, or bother to remember, that Radio News has moved home, except perhaps those of us who are old "radio romantics", for whom the sight of that liner-like building in Portland Place always produces an inexpressible sense of magic and who never fail to be thrilled by the myriad voices emanating from the ether, from within its walls. So - thank you, Broadcasting House. That is the end of the news, at least as far as you are concerned, but your name will for ever be linked with the history of radio news broadcasting in this country."
Brian Dyson, 1998. Originally appeared in 'The Circular Note', the journal of the VRPCC. Reproduced by permission.
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