Central dismembered 

17 October 2010 tbs.pm/2264

ATV Centre 5.png

On 26 August 1997, Central News West announced that the well-known Broad Street studios were to close, and that the entire Central operation was relocating to a new facility a few streets away, purposely designed for the digital age.

auction_catalogue_cover.jpg

International asset consultants Henry Butcher Ltd had been chosen to manage the closure of the studios and sale of its contents. The studios were open for viewing on Friday 29 August and Monday 1 September and each morning of the sale from 9.00am until 4.00pm.

The sale took place spread across three rostrums located within the closed studio building; Rostrum 1 dealing with the sale of furniture and office machinery, Rostrum 2 taking care of the sale of all things technical and Rostrum 3 looking after computers, machine tools, consumables, canteen equipment and building services equipment.

It was quite interesting to find how cheap equipment was selling for; to me it was more like an auction with ‘car-boot’ prices. The turnout was massive, from various broadcasters on the lookout for a bargain to those using the chance to visit the building ‘for old times sake’ and see where ATV once was.

During the auction, former ATV Today reporter Tony Maycock put in an appearance to file perhaps what was to be the final report from the building. Even he was taken back by those who had turned up just because they felt quite nostalgic towards ATV!

Many people were amazed when they discovered what facilities the building contained. When the studio was opened in March 1970, it was regarded as the most up-to-date for colour broadcasting in Europe. The building was constructed with the idea that just about every facility required for television production, transmission and archiving was readily available under one roof. This idea remained until around the mid-1990s, when “shareholder value” came to govern ITV companies and the buzzword was profit instead of quality. As a result, many facilities were outsourced, which of course meant job losses.

While wandering around the main transmission area (and a few other technical areas) I noticed that there was quite an atmosphere within the building during its final months; many staff had been made redundant, some had taken early retirement and a few were fortunate to secure jobs elsewhere in ITV. This was evident from the cartoons and sarcastic comments towards ‘those high up at ITV’ and in particular Carlton posted on the notice boards of the Presentation Department, Library Management System (LMS) and MCR rooms – most far too libellous to be printed here! Next to these, memos from union representatives proved that staff were fighting hard to keep their jobs.

This 4th floor master control room (MCR) and continuity suite was the only area in the building still in service by this time. Access to view this area was restricted to groups of up to 4 people at a time, accompanied by a security guard. Transmission should have switched to the new Gas Street studios in March 1997, but due to many teething troubles the department remained at Broad Street. It finally closed down in October 1997, the final output being continuity announcements and Children’s ITV. Stories surfaced about O/B units seen at the new Gas Street studios, reportedly providing temporary transmission facilities as problems were yet still being ‘ironed out’.

The department in its day would have been pretty busy, and at times hectic; as of October 1997, it was empty, apart from two transmission controllers sat doing a crossword and continuity announcer Paul Vasey tucking into his packed lunch – the Canteen had already closed.

commercial_transmission_lib.jpg

By my first return visit in 1999, the building had stood empty (apart from a security post) for a little over two years. It was interesting to see how much hadn’t been sold from a sale catalogue of nearly 12,000 items. Monitors were still left installed and a small percentage of other associated equipment remained in place, untouched. Most of the LMS suite was never sold, as with much of the rack equipment from both the vision apparatus room and Technical Apparatus Room (TAR).

A full decade after ATV Centre broadcast its final programmes and closed its doors, the building stood empty and virtually disused. A odd use was for storage of Bill Clinton’s armoured car while he was on a visit to Birmingham (it was stored in Studio 1). It also saw filming of items for ITV50 in 2005 and Sally James and Chris Tarrant making a return in 2007 for Tiswas – Reunited.

Some pub chains had viewed the site, with an idea of converting the premises to an entertainment complex (that was the plan for the complex back in 1967!), but these plans were apparently shelved due to the great expense involved.

In 1998, Miller Group had drawn up redevelopment plans for the area around the corner of Broad Street and Paradise Circus. The development, called Arena Central, was planned to be a major shopping and entertainment area. With the ATV Centre site becoming free, Arena Central was expanded to include an Arena Central Tower, a residential skyscraper.

Plans for this progressed slowly, with national government intervention to reduce the height and scale of the tower. By 2007, the tower had been redesigned to cover the various objections and renamed “the V Building”. The plans for this building, drawn up by Eric R Kuhne & Associates, bear some similarities to the original architects sketches for the proposed Alpha Tower drawn up back in 1968.

Hazel Blears, when Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, indicated that some kind of plaque or small monument should be erected on the site, to remember the contribution ATV made to British (and worldwide) television.

central_house_entrance_demolition.jpg

During the early autumn of 2007, scaffolding went up, and most of the ATV Centre area was sealed off. Preliminary demolition work began in late 2007, with Central House, the canteen area and a section of the exhibition hall being the first to be reduced to rubble. Preliminary demolition work inside the studios followed, with the removal of asbestos. The demolition and site clearance continues, although work on Arena Central and the V Building appears to have stalled, with Property Week saying that “the council is now working with the developer to create a more viable scheme”, suggesting that the area may remain wasteland for some time.

Your comment

Enter it below