Studio B at Broadcasting House has been brought back to life after two years as the new home of BBC One’s flagship news bulletins.
At 10pm on Monday, Huw Edwards presented the first bulletin from the studio. The new look was given its first public viewing earlier on, during The One Show, when presenter Alex Jones was shown around the studio.
A new video wall forms the centrepiece of the revamped studio alongside a new crescent-shaped news desk.
The revamped studio is designed to be sufficiently versatile to allow it to be used for various news programmes throughout the day and week. The BBC said it would see “significant cost savings in the long term due to the flexibility of the space. It added that the change means it “will no longer need to build bespoke new sets for major events such as elections.”
On the opposite site of the studio, a large video wall can be used by BBC reporters to showcase and analyse the main news stories of the day.
A new mid-set screen will allow BBC News to display vertical video, such as footage from mobile devices:
Adjacent to the news desk, the weather will be presented from a new touchscreen.
Key to the new set are new automated cameras using ‘Scandinavian technology’. These run on railway-style tracks that traverse the studio.
And in a nod to the old set, the revamped set includes a spiral staircase (as previously seen in the background leading to the newsroom), plus ‘hoops’ in the ceiling.
It’s the latest stage in a major revamp taking shape across all of the BBC’s television and radio services as it seeks to gradually modernise its presentation.
Many of the new features showcased by the BBC are already established elements of news studio presentation globally. Even veteran presenter Andrew Neil recently said that rivals were leaving the BBC behind in terms of presentation and studios.
The weather, earlier…
The main late evening weather forecast will be incorporated into the 10pm news for the first time in its history. It means viewers no longer need to wait until the end of the regional news. This also brings the late news in line with the 1 and 6pm news bulletins.
And the change ends a long-standing anomaly. In some nations and regions, the national weather was replaced by a longer regional bulletin. Here, the regional weather presenter covered both local and national forecasts.
Studio B’s previous life
Studio B was previously used for programmes including Newsnight, The Andrew Marr Show andVictoria Derbyshire. It was the only one of the main news studios not to have full automation. At the start of the pandemic, social distancing restrictions forced Studio B to be mothballed.
The BBC has spent the last few months ripping out the old sets and installing a fully automated replacement.
BBC Breakfast and regional changes coming soon
Work is already underway on a new studio set for Breakfast at the BBC’s Salford base. This has already forced BBC Sport bulletins to move to a temporary location. Off-peak bulletins from North West Today have also moved to a ‘broom cupboard’ set-up to allow work to continue.
Meanwhile, all of the BBC’s “nations and regions” news bulletins will also be overhauled and modernised.
A long wait for changes…
For nearly 10 years, the BBC’s main news bulletins have broadcast from Studio E, next to the newsroom, when the BBC moved from TV Centre to Central London. It’s been one of the longest periods of consistent presentation for BBC News. The 1999 rebrand of BBC News, which introduced the beeps and a cream and red studio only lasted until 2003.
But this time, not everything will be changing. The BBC’s familiar striped globe titles are due to remain for a little while longer. Cost pressures have forced the BBC to roll-out changes in phases. The cost of making changes is now spread out over multiple financial years.
From Tuesday, the BBC’s 6pm news bulletin will move to the new set. The old studio will continue to be used for other news bulletins across BBC services.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie confirmed changes to the look and feel of BBC News were coming in last month’s speech to BBC staff, in which he outlined a package of changes that will affect BBC services.
BBC management are concerned that the corporation’s output has fallen behind the times. Following budget cuts, the BBC has opted to continue funding changes to modernise its flagship services. At the same time, it is seeking to cut back on lesser used services and programmes.
Distribution of some services will switch to online-only from 2025.
And there will be further changes to how BBC News uses its studio space: Plans to merge BBC News and BBC World News will reduce the need to operate separate studios at certain times of the day.
Blueprint for the future
Speaking about the changes, Huw Edwards said:
“This is going to be our home for daily news, big events and everything in between. It gives us a platform which allows us to tell stories in a much more vibrant, creative and impactful way that will make a real difference to our audience. We’re really proud of it and I can’t wait to share it with our viewers.”
Jonathan Munro, Interim Director of News, added:
“Bringing greater value to our audiences has been at the core of this project and we’re so excited to finally bring the newly refurbished studio to viewers at home. It really puts them at the heart of our reporting while also highlighting the great variety of what BBC News has got to offer.
“As the first major refurbishment our news studios have seen in a decade, it is a real blueprint for how we move forward in future-proofing our news output.”
Aidan Smith, RXTV editor