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Broadcasting Parliament - Bridge Street
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Broadcasting Parliament - Bridge Street: Introduction

Clock Tower
Although the possibility of broadcasting the proceedings of Parliament had been suggested from time to time, for many years Parliament was opposed to the idea. Permission to broadcast the State Opening on both radio and television was granted to the BBC for the first time in 1958. The Government stressed, though, that this decision was not setting a precedent and was based on the fact that the ceremony was a State occasion, not a part of the routine work of Parliament.

The Lords finally agreed to a trial of radio coverage of their proceedings in 1968. BH Studios B8 and B9, together with recording channel H9, were used for this experiment. Nothing was actually broadcast, the programmes being made available to their Lordships for them to pass judgement.

Perhaps they were less than impressed because it wasn't until June and July 1975 that another experiment took place and the public finally had a chance to hear their representatives, both Commons and Lords, at work. For this trial period, the BBC built a small radio complex in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster using a couple of OB vehicles and some Portacabins. Does anyone have any photos of this installation?

When Parliament gave permission for permanent radio broadcasting to begin, space was offered in a building which occupied the corner of Bridge Street
View
and the Embankment. There were already plans to rebuild on this site and most of the building was in a very poor condition. But the first floor was made habitable (sort of) and the BBC installed an editorial area, some small radio studios, a minuscule TV studio, a recording channel, a Central Technical Area and a couple of small offices in its part of this space. IRN occupied the rest of the floor. Regular broadcasts began on 3rd April 1978.

The building may have been nearing the end of its life, but it did offer some splendid views. The picture of the Clock Tower above was taken from the roof. And this shot was taken through the recording channel's rather small window, and looks out at Westminster Bridge with the statue of Boudica (just behind the tree). Unfortunately the windows were only very rarely cleaned...

Staircase    Windows
...And talking of windows, the staircase leading up to the first floor was a rather spectacular affair (or had been once) with some stained glass windows. Behind these windows was Westminster Underground station.

The Palace of Westminster Police later used much of the ground floor. When Parliament decided to allow television coverage this space was made available to the BBC and used for a large office. There was also a TV technical area on the ground floor at this time, but the main television installation was in Westminster Central Hall.

The BBC vacated the building in 1991 and the structure was demolished in 1994 to make way for Portcullis House which now provides office space for Members of Parliament and their staffs.