At noon today, the very last BBC World Service broadcast was aired from London's Bush House, ending a residency lasting over 70 years. The whole of the Corporation's famous international service has now moved to new state-of-the-art offices at Broadcasting House in Portland Place, near Oxford Circus. All of the equipment, furniture, fixtures and fittings, however, have been left behind and are being sold off to the highest online bidder. The first of two sales is already open for bidding and includes complete mono and stereo mixing studios, a TV studio, a mind-boggling catalog of studio equipment, BBC memorabilia, office furniture and a Steinway grand piano.
Bush House opened on July 4, 1925 but didn't become home to the BBC's World Service (or the Empire Service as it was previously known) until the Second World War, when the European team was forced out of premises in Oxford Street by bombing during the Blitz. The Aldwych building was where daily messages from General De Gaulle were broadcast to the Resistance. George Orwell worked in Bush House and is thought to have based his Ministry of Truth canteen from 1984 on his less-than-favorable experiences there.
By 1972, Bush House was broadcasting over 750 hours of programming in 40 different languages. Its international reputation for impartial integrity wasn't good news for everyone at the Word Service, as staff became targets for attack. Bulgarian dissident and broadcaster Georgi Markov was jabbed in the leg during his lunch break in September 1978 and died three days later.
Staff have been slowly clearing out since March of this year, region by region and floor by floor, and today marked the final chapter in the building's long association with the Service. The very last broadcast was the five-minute news bulletin at midday.
The contents, though, are staying put ... for a short while, at least. Everything from furniture to recording equipment to photos of famous guests has been tagged and logged and will go to the highest bidder in two massive online auctions, the first running for the remainder of this month and the second scheduled for September.
Phase 1 lots include a number of Revox reel-to-reel tape recorders, analog and digital pulse clocks (with and without "On Air" lights), and a boxed and unused Tascam 130 stereo cassette deck. If you prefer something that might have been used to record some famous voices some time in the past, there are quite a few Tascam 112R MKII models up for grabs. Among the many maps available is a 2600-mm (102.3-inch) wide full height map of the Caribbean.
There's a veritable feast of audio equipment, from bundles of Sonifex DAW-P production office digital audio workstations to a huge selection of amps and speakers from big names like Samson, Denon, BOSE, Technics and Kenwood, along with CD and MD players from Marantz, Denon and Sony. Vintage and modern microphones and headphones are listed, plasma and LCD displays and TVs of various sizes and models feature, while vinyl lovers and DJs alike will doubtless scramble after the available Technics turntables.
Art lovers may be interested in the various prints and paintings on offer, and the framed photographs of famous folks like Paul McCartney (from a Russian Service broadcast in 1989), Henry Kissinger, Charlton Heston, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Bob Geldof are sure to catch the eye of a collector or two. There's even a Steinway model D grand piano, which has already notched up £1,450 (US$2,237) in bids at the time of writing.
Although some of the 1,500 Phase 1 items are expected to sell for over £10,000 ($15,428), the minimum bid for each lot is just £10 ($15), so bargain hunters could still snag a cheap piece of broadcasting history.
September's Phase 2 auction will feature over 40 complete broadcast studios and yet more studio equipment.
Source: Peaker Pattinson
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