BBC World Service bids farewell to Bush House
LONDON: The BBC World Service transmits its final broadcast from Bush House in London on Thursday, ending 72 years of radio programmes from the building that kept millions informed across the globe.
The World Service, which now broadcasts in 27 languages from Arabic to Vietnamese, has been gradually moving since March from the imposing stone building between the Aldwych and The Strand roads.
Region by region, services have moved out to the new east wing attached to Broadcasting House in Portland Place.
The final five-minute bulletin was to be read at midday (1100 GMT) Thursday, before the signal finally goes off-air at Bush House.
Outgoing BBC Director-General Mark Thompson has recorded a special despatch to be included in the final broadcast.
“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,” it will say.
At its peak, World Service broadcasts from Bush House were made in 45 languages.
Niche services included Welsh for Patagonia, and Portuguese for the Channel Island of Jersey, targeting expat hotel staff.
For many, broadcasts from Bush House have been a lifeline, with people living under oppressive regimes tuning in for trustworthy, impartial news about their country and the rest of the world.
Leonid Finkelstein who worked in the Russian Service for nearly 30 years, first heard the BBC in a Soviet labour camp in 1948, the corporation said.
A fellow detainee, an engineer, constructed a radio out of scraps of metal.
“And that is how I first learnt about the Chelsea Flower Show in London,”he said.
The World Service counts more than 160 million listeners across the globe.
“Since the Second World War, this has been the home of the BBC’s global services,” Thompson said, after recording his insert.
Though the corporation was set up for a domestic audience, “That other mission which was speaking to the entire world — ‘Nation shall speak peace unto nation’ is the BBC’s motto — has been very close to the BBC’s heart and in many ways even for people in the UK, the World Service and what its stands for has often felt like the jewel in the BBC’s crown.
“Bush House was the icon for that idea of a world broadcaster broadcasting to people in every continent.
“When you think of the voices and the sounds and all of the moments of world history which have been reported on and broadcast and discussed, there’s an enormous weight of broadcasting history here.
“This is still a sad and very memorable moment for us.”