BBC World Service bids farewell to Bush House

LONDON - The BBC World Service transmitted its final bulletin from Bush House in London on Thursday, ending 71 years of radio broadcasts from the building that kept millions informed across the globe.

Since March, the service has gradually moved to the new east wing attached to Broadcasting House in Portland Place, two kilometres (one and a half miles) away.

Region by region, its 27 language services from Arabic to Vietnamese have switched over to the state-of-the-art, multimedia building uniting the BBC's national and global journalism operations.

Thursday's midday news at 1100 GMT was the final broadcast from the last working studio left in Bush House.

Newsreader Iain Purdon read the five-minute bulletin, leading off on the announcement of extra troops being deployed to the London Olympics.

"And now, after more than 70 years broadcasting to the world from Bush House in central London, this BBC news bulletin is the last to come from our Bush House studios," he said.

A recorded look-back at Bush House from outgoing BBC Director-General Mark Thompson was then played.

"This benign Tower of Babel, the scene of so many great broadcasting moments, and the home of so many great broadcasters over the years, is now silent; its corridors deserted; its studios empty," Thompson said.

Thompson said that through the Cold War to the complex 21st century, "Bush House became a unique icon of authority and trustworthiness in news to millions of listeners around the globe.

"Often, the World Service and the BBC's language services were the only source of reliable information available to listeners. In some countries, that's still largly true today.

"I'd like to pay tribute to all those who made Bush House such an enduring beacon of truth and objectivity in a troubled world, and I'd like to thank everyone who's tuned in over the years."

Signing off, Purdon said: "So, the World Service and the news goes on; just not from here.

"From Bush House, that's the BBC news."

For many, broadcasts from Bush House have been a lifeline, with people living under oppressive regimes tuning in for impartial news about their country and the rest of the world.

Many have learnt English by tuning in and Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi said it kept her going through her long years in detention.

At its peak, World Service broadcasts from Bush House were being made in 45 languages. Programmes have been transmitted in 68 different tongues.

Niche services included Welsh for Patagonia, and Portuguese for the Channel Island of Jersey, targeting expat hotel staff.

An imposing, eight-storey building in Portland stone, Bush House sits between the Aldwych and Strand roads, flanked by the Indian and Australian high commissions and opposite the London School of Economics.

Auctioneers Peaker Pattinson are selling off its contents.

The 3,000 lots, which start going under the hammer at the end of the month, include studio mixing desks, and pictures from the walls, including a framed photograph of Beatles legend Paul McCartney broadcasting to the Soviet Union in 1989.

Radio stations in eastern Europe, India and Pakistan have expressed an interest in buying some of the bigger studios, while turntables and reel-to-reel tape decks are attracting interest from club disc jockeys.

The World Service counts more than 160 million listeners across the globe.

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